Consular staff, paratroopers tested at exercise in Germany
By MARTIN EGNASH | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 30, 2019
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany — U.S. paratroopers dropped out of the sky in a simulated response to an adversary targeting a U.S. diplomatic compound, during an exercise that wrapped up Monday.
Thousands of allied and partner nations’ troops fought each other in large-scale military drills known as Saber Junction, with staff from the U.S. Consul General in Munich also taking part and issuing the mock order to evacuate all U.S. citizens and other eligible persons in the face of an anticipated enemy attack.
“Being a part of this exercise gives the State Department absolutely invaluable training on how to process American citizens that need to be evacuated out of a warzone or natural disaster area,” said Kelly Winck, a foreign services officer with the State Department.
Saber Junction, which began Sept. 3 and was hosted at Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels training areas, assessed how well the Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade — the service’s Europe-based “contingency response force” — can battle alongside foreign counterparts.
More than 5,400 troops from 16 countries from around Europe and western Asia took part in the monthlong exercise, during which American soldiers jumped into battle positions to quickly repel enemy forces.
Troops from the 173rd conducted offensive and defensive operations with Turkish commandos and fired live artillery rounds at simulated targets.
The State Department worked closely with the U.S. brigade and Bosnian troops to assist in securing areas surrounding a mock U.S. Embassy.
After allied forces secured the area, the American civilians and diplomatic staff were sped off by bus to a protected airfield where they boarded an Air Force C-130 Hercules transport aircraft to fly to safety.
“The strength of the interagency partnership on display here has been wonderful,” Winck said. “It’s given me an incredible amount of confidence in the capacity of the U.S. government to protect lives and interests overseas.”