Saturday, July 13, 2024

US Guard troops train in Czech Republic

Nearly 800 U.S. National Guard soldiers from Virginia, Kentucky, and West Virginia conducted annual training in the Olomouc Region of the Czech Republic this May as part of Operation Immediate Response 24, a sub-component of the larger STEADFAST DEFENDER 24 exercise.

The units mobilized for IR 24 as Task Force St. Lo, led by the Virginia National Guard’s 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

“The overall mission was for the task force to assume command of a multinational element, including active duty and reserve units as well as National Guard,” said Lt. Col. Kevin Hoffman, commander of Task Force St. Lo. “U.S. Soldiers from Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Germany, also a civil affairs element from New England. The task was to converge on the Město Libavá military training area in the Czech Republic and conduct combined arms training with the Czech military.”

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Task Force St. Lo soldiers conducted joint training with Czech military partners, participated in a Victory in Europe celebration, and executed a culminating training exercise. They also had the opportunity to experience the local culture.

STEADFAST DEFENDER 24 involved more than 90,000 troops, 50 ships, 80 aircraft, and 1,100 combat vehicles from all 32 NATO allies, aiming to enhance readiness across different command levels. The exercise demonstrated NATO’s capability to deploy forces from North America and the U.K. to support Europe, highlighting unity and interoperability.

Planning for the exercise began months in advance. “Coordinating the movement of materials and Soldiers for such a mission was an impressive accomplishment achieved in a very brief period,” Hoffman explained.

The first major event was a Victory in Europe celebration on May 8, 2024, in Hranice, Czech Republic. Hoffman and Czech military officials spoke during the ceremony, and soldiers from both nations participated in static displays of military weapons and vehicles.

Between training, Task Force St. Lo soldiers enjoyed cultural days, exploring local landmarks. “The Czechs provided transportation so we could go out and do cultural days,” Hoffman said. “So that all the Soldiers could experience a little of the Czech culture. We went to a city with a cathedral that’s nearly 1,000 years old, and a castle from the 13th century. The Czechs are proud of their culture and their country. They were happy to share it with us.”

Members of Alpha Company, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, conducted two days of integrated training with the Czech 72nd Mechanized Battalion, including fire and movement drills and weapons familiarization.

Task Force St. Lo hosted several distinguished visitors, including Maj. Gen. Joseph A. DiNonno, 29th Infantry Division commanding general, and Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy Hawley, 29th ID command sergeant major. They spoke with soldiers, toured the area of operations, and presented challenge coins to those recognized for their efforts.

A joint live-fire demonstration took place on May 10, 2024, at Velká Střelná Shooting Range, featuring the 72nd Mechanized Battalion, 7th Mechanized Brigade, and members of the 1-150th Cavalry Regiment, 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team. U.S. and Czech forces conducted armored battle drills, engaging multiple targets.

The annual training culminated in a final exercise on May 14, 2024. Battalion staff planned and coordinated operations with Czech counterparts, with engineers emplacing obstacles and infantry and engineer units defending positions.

“We had all these assets that we wouldn’t normally have,” Hoffman said. “Our staff was forced to analyze a real-world scenario. If you have light infantry, transportation, counter mobility and mobility assets, along with a reconnaissance force, how would you employ those in a real-world scenario? So again, the task force worked with multiple forces, and this training exercise revolved around employing those real forces in a tactical, doctrinally sound manner.”

Lt. Col. Hoffman reflected on the impact of the exercise: “The fact that our Soldiers are able to play a small part in a generational exercise is very exciting. It’s great to see our troops gain that experience because this is an annual training that they are going to come back home and talk about for the rest of their military career. For the individual Soldier, it just opens their eyes to a bigger Army, and the total Army concept.”

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Executive Editor

About author:

Colton Jones
Colton Jones
Colton Jones is the deputy editor of Defence Blog. He is a US-based journalist, writer and publisher who specializes in the defense industry in North America and Europe. He has written about emerging technology in military magazines and elsewhere. He is a former Air Force airmen and served at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

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