For the third time, Fort Stewart soldiers are deploying to train and participate in several exercises with allies in the coming months.
More than 3,000 soldiers from 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, are deploying to Europe as U.S. Army Europe’s Regionally Allocated Force.
"So we’ll be operating in 11 different countries for this rotation, which will be a six-month rotation," said Maj. Randy Ready, public affairs officer of 1st ABCT.
"During this rotation, we’ll be doing several multinational and bilateral exercises with our NATO allies and partners," he said. "And really we’re working on interoperability, making sure we can work together as a combined force if we have to go to some type of kinetic operation."
Some of the soldiers left Thursday, saying farewell to family members near the brigade’s headquarters and then joined their units at a staging area before their flight.
The Raider Brigade will participate in several large exercises, according to Ready, including Exercise Anakonda 16 in Poland.
"There’ll be 24 countries, over 25,000 soldiers as a part of that exercise," he said. "So that’s definitely what we’re preparing for right now."
The joint exercise will involve army, navy, air force and Special Forces participants from several countries, according to a promotional video for Exercise Anakonda 16.
Exercise Anakonda 16 is taking place before the Warsaw Summit in July, when the heads of states of NATO countries will meet.
More than 1,000 1st ABCT soldiers will also participate in Operation Atlantic Resolve, "a demonstration of continued U.S. commitment to the collective security of our NATO allies and partners," according to a 1st ABCT news release.
Soldiers will conduct exercises for Operation Atlantic Resolve in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary, the release says.
"It’s important to train with our allies because we’re never going to go somewhere by ourselves," Ready said. "I mean, those days are kind of over. We’re always going to go with our allies and partners. So if we’re going to go fight with them, we need to train with them."
Building on the relationships developed from the last two rotations will help make them even more "interoperable" with their allies, Ready said.
Learning each other’s capabilities and techniques is also important to the training.
"Being an Armored Brigade Combat Team, some of the Baltic nations there, they’re not used to working with tanks, so it’s, ‘How do we get our tanks and their infantry to work together and seamlessly?" he said.
This deployment’s focus is now on training with allies for decisive action missions with a near-peer threat and away from counterinsurgency operations for which soldiers have been trained for more than a decade, according to Ready.
Capt. Derrick Jerke, commander of C Troop, 5th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st ABCT, and his wife Bethann Jerke, who is also the troop’s family readiness leader, said goodbye to one another Thursday.
This is Jerke’s third rotation, and he said his wife is a "very strong woman" who has been adapting well to the rotations.
"The rotations are going great," Jerke said. "When we’re over there, the soldiers are training. We’re training with all the NATO allies doing operations in all sorts of countries, from the Baltics to the Balkans."
The brigade will also conduct a joint multinational training exercise at Hohenfels, Germany, with NATO allies, Jerke said.
The 5-7 Cavalry Regiment will participate in both RAF and Operation Atlantic Resolve.
The opportunity to train with allies in Europe is a "very unique opportunity that a lot of people in today’s Army don’t get the ability to go and deploy and do some training exercises with other agencies and figure out how they operate, they learn how we operate, and working together in a partnership role," Jerke said.
Bethann Jerke said that while her husband is gone she will keep busy with her volunteer work and by visiting family.
For other spouses in the same situation, she said having things to look forward to will help make the days go faster.
"And then before you know it, they’re on their way home. So, just staying busy and staying active," she said.