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Georgia's armored brigade returns to Europe for Operation Atlantic Resolve duties

Snowfall didn't stop U.S. soldiers with 5th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team from conducting a live-fire exercise at the Grafenwoehr, Germany, training area on Thursday, April 28, 2016.

MICHAEL S. DARNELL/STARS AND STRIPES

By MICHAEL S. DARNELL | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 29, 2016

GRAFENWOEHR, Germany — The 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team is once again calling Europe home as more than 3,000 troops rotated to the region.

It marks the third time in a little more than a year that the Fort Stewart, Ga.-based unit has returned to the Continent as part of its duties as U.S. European Command’s regionally allocated force.

The brigade will once again take on the bulk of the land force responsibility for Operation Atlantic Resolve, the American-led effort to reassure eastern allies since Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

“We’ve been here before but now we’re taking the relationships that we built over these last rotations and the lessons learned and we’re continuing to build off them,” said Maj. Randy Ready, brigade spokesman.

During its six-month rotation, the 1st ABCT will conduct a number of operations across 11 countries, including taking part in Anakonda 16, a show-of-force exercise in Poland that will place 25,000 soldiers from 24 nations right on Russia’s doorstep.

Before that though, reconnaissance elements from the brigade will move to Hohenfels to begin the smaller-scaled Combined Resolve exercise, where it will begin laying the groundwork for the larger missions down the road.

“We’ll be mixing and matching essentially our reconnaissance units with other NATO forces and trying to work together,” said Capt. Derrick Jerke, commander of Troop C, 5th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment.

Jerke and his fellow Bradley infantry fighting vehicle-mounted troops have spent the past week getting ready for the exercises. A large part of that preparation took place at the gunnery ranges at the Grafenwoehr training area.

“It’s designed to test the mettle of the platoon and to challenge the platoon leader,” Jerke said of the ranges. “Overall, this is the certification process for those platoons to go in to a future operation we’re conducting at Hohenfels.”

While Jerke said he’s been a part of every one of the brigade’s regionally aligned force deployments to Europe, this is the first time he’s been among the soldiers, leading them in the field. The recent gunnery and upcoming major exercises such as Anakonda 16, have already begun to make their mark on the brigade’s rank-and-file, many of whom have never deployed before.

“A lot of the training exercises that we’re doing, most U.S. forces will never get the same experiences,” Jerke said. “The significance of that definitely resonates with the soldiers.”

darnell.michael@stripes.com

U.S. soldiers with 5th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, await their turn on a gunnery range at the Grafenwoehr, Germany, training area Thursday, April 28, 2016.
MICHAEL S. DARNELL/STARS AND STRIPES