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Soldiers maintain a 105mm M119-A3 howitzer during an exercise in Grafenwoehr, Germany, Aug. 13, 2019.
Soldiers maintain a 105mm M119-A3 howitzer during an exercise in Grafenwoehr, Germany, Aug. 13, 2019. (Martin Egnash/Stars and Stripes)
Soldiers maintain a 105mm M119-A3 howitzer during an exercise in Grafenwoehr, Germany, Aug. 13, 2019.
Soldiers maintain a 105mm M119-A3 howitzer during an exercise in Grafenwoehr, Germany, Aug. 13, 2019. (Martin Egnash/Stars and Stripes)
Soldiers train at an artillery firing position set up in a small clearing on the edge of a forest during an exercise in Grafenwoehr, Germany, Aug. 13, 2019.
Soldiers train at an artillery firing position set up in a small clearing on the edge of a forest during an exercise in Grafenwoehr, Germany, Aug. 13, 2019. (Martin Egnash/Stars and Stripes)
Pfc. Miguel Alvarez, an artilleryman with the 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), provides cover during an exercise in Grafenwoehr, Germany, Aug. 13, 2019.
Pfc. Miguel Alvarez, an artilleryman with the 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), provides cover during an exercise in Grafenwoehr, Germany, Aug. 13, 2019. (Martin Egnash/Stars and Stripes)
Soldiers aim their105mm M119-A3 howitzers during an exercise at Grafenwoehr, Germany, Aug. 13, 2019.
Soldiers aim their105mm M119-A3 howitzers during an exercise at Grafenwoehr, Germany, Aug. 13, 2019. (Martin Egnash/Stars and Stripes)
A soldier brings a 105mm artillery shell to an M119-A3 howitzer during an exercise in Grafenwoehr, Germany, Aug. 13, 2019.
A soldier brings a 105mm artillery shell to an M119-A3 howitzer during an exercise in Grafenwoehr, Germany, Aug. 13, 2019. (Martin Egnash/Stars and Stripes)
Soldiers fire a 105mm M119-A3 Howitzer during an exercise in Grafenwoehr, Germany, Aug. 13, 2019.
Soldiers fire a 105mm M119-A3 Howitzer during an exercise in Grafenwoehr, Germany, Aug. 13, 2019. (Martin Egnash/Stars and Stripes)
Capt. Marvin Perez-Cruz, an artillery battery commander with the 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), looks over orders during an exercise in Grafenwoehr, Germany, Aug. 13, 2019.
Capt. Marvin Perez-Cruz, an artillery battery commander with the 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), looks over orders during an exercise in Grafenwoehr, Germany, Aug. 13, 2019. (Martin Egnash/Stars and Stripes)

GRAFENWOEHR, Germany – High above the rolling hills of northern Bavaria and nestled deep in a peaceful forest, the calming songs of cuckoo birds filled the air – right up until the heavy artillery fire began.

Big guns are a semi-regular part of life for the birds at Grafenwoehr, the sprawling Army training range where the 173rd Airborne Brigade conducted a live-fire exercise this week to prepare for their annual evaluation next month.

The soldiers focused on synchronizing their cannons to fire on targets with accuracy and precision. They also conducted air assaults, where they jumped out of planes and rapidly set up their artillery to simulate launching a surprise attack.

The week’s training allows the Sky Soldiers, the only U.S. airborne brigade stationed full-time in Europe, to bring a combat-ready force anywhere on the Continent and provide artillery fire at a moment’s notice, battery commander Capt. Marvin Perez-Cruz said.

“From the moment an observer identifies a target and sends his last message to call for fire, it takes 90 seconds before the first round leaves the tube,” Perez-Cruz said.

Next month’s annual evaluation, called Saber Junction, will assess the brigade’s ability to rapidly respond to threats and fight battles in Europe, he said.

Saber Junction is set to run from Sept. 4 – Oct. 1 and will involve more than 5,000 soldiers from 20 nations.

The brigade is based in Italy and Germany, and provides rapid reaction forces to the European, Africa and Central Command areas of responsibility.

egnash.martin@stripes.com Twitter: @Marty_Stripes

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