Three uniforms, one team: Airmen team up with US, German Soldiers in FTX

by 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

From roadside improvised explosive devices to an all out ambush, Airmen recently teamed up with U.S. and German soldiers at Camp Elsenborn, Belgium, to train through these and various other scenarios encountered every day downrange.
Reflecting the joint and multinational environment seen in deployed settings, the field training exercise also helped strengthen bonds.

“The more we do together, the better the relationship gets,” said German army Master Sgt. Torben Ritz. “U.S. and German friendships are just one result, a better cooperation within the daily business is the other.”

Booby-trapped buildings and intense close-range combat helped fill the nearly 17-hour exercise. Two multinational squads conducted a mission to secure a high-value target, while oppositional forces countered their efforts with tactics experienced daily in real-world combat operations. In addition to playing “OPFOR,” Airmen also exercised explosive ordinance disposal and medical evacuation procedures.

But before the FTX even began, U.S. and German soldiers of the U.S. Army Garrison Benelux and 39th Signal Battalion needed a little extra support to push the exercise to its full potential. As the hosts and leaders of the exercise, they received support from the 309th Airlift Squadron and the 786th Force Support Squadron, Det 3, based at Chievres Air Base, Belgium.

“Without their OPFOR support, the exercise would have significantly degraded in value,” said Army Capt. Michael Quigg, USAG Benelux Headquarters company commander and primary lead for the FTX. “I thought it was key to have some of their junior Airmen train with us and even lead for a little while. It appears we are becoming more and more joint as the years go by – why not start acting like it?”
Maj. Kevin Bray, 309th AS director of support operations, said the FTX was a “great start” in building key partnerships and is grateful for such opportunities and overall support received by the Army.  

“The newly arrived company commander (Capt. Quigg), has immediately engaged with the Air Force on a few important issues and has been a catalyst for strong Air Force-Army relations,” said Bray. “Building strong relations with the Army and finding opportunities where we can work together is a huge force multiplier and gets the mission done where it would otherwise fail. Overall, it is and was motivating to work with our Army and coalition partners.”

Though the exercise contributes to the strategic objective of building and maintaining key partnerships, Airmen also had fun at the FTX and several even volunteered their off-duty time to participate.

“We all enjoyed it to the fullest,” said Tech. Sgt. Andrey Senchykov, 786th FSS Det 3. “I think that by working with not only the Army but other nations’ services, we all learned different ways to approach a situation. It was an excellent training that the Army executed for us … a good way to learn each other’s services’ ways of doing things.”

With more opportunities like this to come in the future, Bray said that Airmen at Chievres would absolutely be looking forward to teaming up again with their Army counterparts. He sees this teamwork as a must.

“If Soldiers, Airmen and our NATO partners don’t reach out and create or capitalize on these events, they lose priceless opportunities to build relations each can and will rely on locally and abroad,” said Bray. “One of the most important lessons is ― no matter what uniform one wears, we’re all on the same team.”

(USAG Benelux Public Affairs contributed to this article.)