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Anakonda 16 training builds relationships with US allies
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A soldier with Bravo Company, 3rd Combined Arms Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, sits in a Bradley fighting vehicle during a live-fire exercise June 13 in Drawsko Pomorskie, Poland. - photo by Photo by Cailtin Kenney

Exercise Anakonda 16 in Poland provided units from 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division an opportunity to train on their weapons and techniques with soldiers from other countries in a deployed setting.

On the Polish ranges, soldiers tested their skills in medical, field artillery, armored vehicles and a variety of weapons.

Third Combined Arms Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment conducted company-level combined-arms live fire exercises, or CALFEX, June 13, which included using an engineer unit with an armored vehicle that fired a mine-clearing line charge to clear obstacles.

Lt. Col. Johnny Evans, battalion commander of 3-69 Armor, said the CALFEX allowed the armor companies to combine several training tasks into one event.

“It is essential to the training level of a lethal and ready company,” he said.

Evans also said that using live ammunition gives the training urgency because blank munitions cannot hurt the soldiers or an enemy.

“And when they’re actually able to utilize live ammunition with the exercise and maneuvers set that they’ve already trained on, it helps to raise that level of confidence, not just in their platforms but in their skill level set,” he said. “Because there’s no reset when you’re shooting a live round.”

As each company maneuvered down the range, they fired at different targets with their tanks or Bradley fighting vehicles. At a certain point, some of the soldiers were able to dismount and fire at targets with rifles. A few soldiers were even able to fire a Javelin anti-tank missile or a TOW anti-tank missile.

Field artillery

On June 14, a joint fires coordination exercise was supported by U.S. soldiers from 1st Battalion, 41st Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division Artillery, as well as 4th Battalion, 319th Field Artillery Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, and the 45th Field Artillery Brigade of the Oklahoma Army National Guard.

Polish and Romanian units also participated in the exercise with artillery and other military assets.

“Basically, we’re just massing all of our joint fire support assets,” Capt. Peter Beamer, commander of Alpha Battery, 1-41 Field Artillery Regiment, said. Those assets include self-propelled and towed howitzers, High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems and close air support, all focused on two impact areas.

Using a multitude of assets allows for more options when it comes to destroying a target, according to Beamer.

“So in the fires community, we’re all about massing assets … in order to have effects on the battlefield,” Beamer said. “So obviously the more shooters you have, the more effects that you can have, depending on what target you want to destroy, what effect it is that you want to reach.”

The fires coordination exercise was planned to fire 808 high explosive rounds, according to Capt. Douglas Snelling, the battalion fire direction officer for 1-41 Field Artillery Regiment.

“Which is a lot of fire power for just a few hours of shooting,” he said.

After completing this fires exercise, Snelling added, the soldiers proved that “with minimal planning, that we can synchronize and coordinate fires between” several countries and units.

Interoperability

Not only did the fires coordination exercise train on coordinating firepower, but it taught soldiers interoperability, according to Snelling.

“That’s important for the soldiers to know that we can pick up at any point in time, and with a week’s notice … we can work cohesively with other countries, other units …,” he said.

“We’ve got to train together because if we ever go anywhere, we go as a coalition,” said Col. Phil Brooks, commander of 1st ABCT, before the start of Anakonda in a phone interview.

Snelling said it was fun to work with the Polish and Romanians as well as the other American units.

“Usually we’re the only field artillery unit on the battlefield when we go to training exercises, so it’s just been a lot of fun to talk to other units and with different types of weapon systems,” he said. “And seeing how they do things, comparing notes and just getting better every day.”

The ability to learn each another’s tactics, procedures and weapon systems is one part of the interoperability concept, according to Evans, “so we’re able to learn about each other, and with that shared knowledge and information, we’re able to come up with a better product for execution for each of us.”

The other part is developing relationships with allies, he added, beyond just learning to fight alongside each other.

Outside of training, “you actually get to see them more than just an ally, but you see them as a person,” Evans said. “And this foundation that’s established by the relationships, friendships blossom. Which makes us much more effective as we fight together.”

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