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Soldiers scout hybrid enemy in German countryside

Army scouts travel past a German village during training that took them off post to deal with hybrid enemies, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017.

MARTIN EGNASH/STARS AND STRIPES

By MARTIN EGNASH | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 3, 2017

GRAFENWOEHR, Germany — The pace of life is slow among the rolling hills and quaint villages of northeastern Bavaria, and the only sign that you’re in the right century is the odd TV antenna atop the houses or an American Stryker platoon maneuvering through the winding cobblestone streets.

The U.S. Army 2nd Cavalry Regiment’s scout squadron is conducting training off base, in the local German villages and landscape, to add an element of realism to their platoon certification training, which began Jan. 24 and ended Friday.

“When our scouts come out here to operate, they get elements of real life,” said Col. Greg Campion, commander of 2nd Cavalry’s 4th Squadron. “Those are real people in those towns. There’s real traffic. Rivers, trees, ditches. That’s a whole lot of friction that they have to deal with.

“This forces the scouts to think on their feet and make tactical, decisive decisions to deal with their surroundings.”

Besides scouting local hamlets and skirting from forested hilltops to natural cover, the squadron must contend with hybrid enemy fighters, who may hide their identity by dressing in unmarked military uniforms or civilian clothing. This is similar to the situation the Ukrainian army faced when Russia invaded the Crimean Peninsula in 2014.

In playing the role of the enemy, soldiers make the scouts’ job as hard as possible. They set obstacles with mock mines and concertina wire, call for fire on the U.S. troops and blend in with the surrounding villages

“We’ve had several cases where our scouts think they may have spotted an enemy combatant, go up to identify it, and it turns out to be a German civilian,” said Capt. Matthew Parmer, the squadron’s intelligence officer.

“This is great training for them. They can’t take anything for granted. Anyone might be an enemy. It’s all positive identification. Can you tell exactly who an enemy is? And can you relay that information, accurately to the command? That’s what we have to do in the real world.”

The locals have been very receptive to the Americans who have been operating in their villages, coming outside to wave or take pictures. Photo enthusiasts have followed the convoys around to take pictures of the soldiers in front of landmarks and houses.

“It took a lot of work with the German government to set this up,” Campion said. “Now that we’re here, the Germans are incredibly friendly.”

Some German families had taken their kids up to the squadron’s base camp to go sledding between the lines of Strykers, he said.

Most platoon certification training is conducted on base, where American forces routinely conduct training missions. Maneuvering through rural villages is new to the most in the squadron.

“The only way we can train these scouts to reconnoiter a new area they’ve never been to is to actually bring them to places they’ve never been,” Campion said. “This is fantastic training that I honestly don’t think you could do anywhere else in the Army.”

egnash.martin@stripes.com

U.S. soldiers acting as unconventional opposition forces dress in civilian clothing to add uncertainty to a training simulation in the German countryside, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017.
MARTIN EGNASH/STARS AND STRIPES

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