Clash in the crops: German, Dutch paratroopers battle US soldiers in Romania exercise
By MARTIN EGNASH | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 14, 2019
BOCOCU, Romania – German and Dutch paratroopers jumped from low altitude into corn and wheat fields to battle U.S. troops modeled after Russian-backed Ukrainian separatists, in an exercise in Romania on Thursday.
The Dutch and German soldiers were later joined by Texas National Guardsmen in a fight against the U.S. Army’s 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, based in Hohenfels Germany, as part of the ongoing Swift Response exercise.
In the scenario, the American mock enemy force is a militia backed by a large, well-funded country attempting to extend their influence. It’s similar to eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatists have been fighting since 2014, said U.S. Army Capt. Michael Lapadot, an intelligence officer with the 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne).
“We looked at what was happening in the real world and applied it to this scenario,” Lapadot said.
The allied force plans to seize an airfield and hold it against enemy attacks, then move on to further scenarios over the next few days.
“It’s going to be a tough fight,” Lapadot said, citing the militia’s high-tech weapons, like modern mortars and anti-aircraft capabilities.
The fight in the fields is part of Swift Response, a U.S. Army-led exercise in the region involving more than 7,000 soldiers from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, the U.K. and the U.S.
The exercise is designed to test the Global Response Force, a primarily airborne-based command tasked to respond to unplanned threats at a moment’s notice.
More battles and scenarios are expected to continue during Swift Response until the exercise finishes June 25.
This summer, U.S. European Command has placed a priority on exercises in southern Europe and the Black Sea region, where Romania is a key player. In recent years, U.S. Army Europe also has steadily expanded its presence in the country, where Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base serves as a hub for forces moving in and out of Romania.
NATO also has established a Romanian-led multinational brigade in the country to boost allied defenses in the region. The moves come amid concerns about Russia’s buildup around the Black Sea region and Crimea in particular, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.