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Europe's Full-Spectrum Training Environment: One-of-a-kind because of cooperation, partnerships

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On Wednesday, Oct. 5, 998 paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat team (173rd ABCT) executed an early-entry operation when the initial phase of U.S. Army in Europe's Full-Spectrum Training Environment (FSTE) rotation kicked-off at the Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels training areas, Oct. 3-24.

"This FSTE rotation that we're putting the 173rd ABCT through is the first exercise of this magnitude in almost a decade, said Maj. Gen. James C. Boozer, the Deputy Commanding General of the U.S. Army in Europe and senior trainer of the FSTE. "Ten years ago, we would put units through these types of rotations where they would experience every type of contact they would experience in war. We put them through all those different scenarios."

Boozer said during the past 10 years the Army has focused on counter-insurgency operations because of the high-level of support provided by the nations in Europe, about 86 percent of the International Security Assistance Force's troop contributing nations in Afghanistan came from the European theater.

The 173rd ABCT executed the mission with ten C-130 aircraft and a C-17 to drop almost 1,000 personnel, while also dropping heavy packages to support the staff on the ground. The mission was supported by the U.S. Air Force and the Army National Guard and reserve units. However, the training has synergized assets in Europe. For example, the FSTE rotation highlights strong partnerships with Polish, Slovakian and Slovenian forces as they assume roles as observers, controllers and trainers.

There are more than 1,000 multinational participants.

"Ten years ago we put units through training events that focused on conventional high intensity conflict involving force-on-force with intense periods of prolonged combat," said Boozer. "This rotation brings all that back but also adds some of the unconventional things we have seen in Iraq and Afghanistan....hence the name Full-Spectrum Training Environment."

As training continues, the 173rd ABCT continues to take fire from the enemy, while establishing a command outpost, and setting-up communications and building relationships with the host-nation security team during phase two of the exercise.

"The forced entry nature of the exercise provides realism for the 173rd as they could be called to do an operation like this in the future," said Lt. Col. Patrick D. Zoch, Chief of Plans and Operations at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center. "For example, the insertion environment of the future won't have U.S. forces on the ground, and they'll have to establish communications with their headquarters upon arrival."

This training was designed to teach U.S. Soldiers to work well with multinational forces, and teaches multinational forces to fall-in alongside forces of other nations, said Zoch.

Making the FSTE unique is an opposing force comprised of U.S. and Slovakian forces; a field hospital manned by U.S., British and German Soldiers, as participating host-nation forces from various European nations defend key terrain, population and resources to set the conditions for the transition to offensive operations.

"You can't do that kind of training stateside because those folks just aren't available," said Boozer. "But, here we are able to partner with all of our NATO partners and some of our non-NATO partners to conduct these large-scale training events."

"You'll hear about theater security cooperation and building partnership capacity. That is what we do! No units back in the United States do partnership capacity building, and what we mean by that is -- we are able to train and partner with units because they train and become very good at what they do and go to fight in places like Iraq and Afghanistan," said Boozer. "If we didn't do that we would be putting more brigade combat teams in Afghanistan than we do today."

There are partners serving in Afghanistan today because of what the U.S. Army in Europe's training, and its unique ability to work with the nations in Europe, Africa and Asia, he said.

Article by Denver Makle, Army.mil