Czech soldiers maneuver a DANA 152mm self-propelled gun-howitzer vehicle during an exercise in Hohenfels, Germany. (Spc. Derek Hamilton/Army)
Members of the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force and Serbian army take part in a training exercise at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany, in November. The JMTC commander is working to increase training opportunities with America's European partners. (Staff Sgt. Brian Raley/Army)
The Joint Multinational Training Command is working to increase training opportunities with America’s partners and allies in Europe, the Germany-based command’s top officer told Army Times.
As the Army shrinks its footprint in Europe by about 10,000 soldiers, JMTC’s role as a unified training command that conducts training for individuals all the way up to three-star level commands is critical to building partnerships and relationships in the region, said Brig. Gen. Walter Piatt, commander of JMTC.
“We’re so much more than just a combat training center,” Piatt said. “We’re like a training university … and now, as the mission demand dwindles [in Afghanistan], we’re moving from a deployed posture to a contingency posture, which requires a new training approach. That’s really what JMTC can do best for [European Command and Africa Command].”
In fiscal 2013, JMTC conducted 13 exercises at its facilities and supported 22 others in neighboring countries, Piatt said.
About 40,000 soldiers were trained, and almost half of them were multinational, he said.
This year, fiscal 2014, the JMTC is projected to conduct 16 exercises within Germany and is committed to training more than 15,000 soldiers from 27 countries, he said.
The JMTC, which has about 1,900 soldiers and civilians assigned to it, also is partnering with Lithuania to build a training center, and assisting Poland and Romania by providing training instructors, Piatt said. It also continues to train Georgian advise-and-assist teams preparing to deploy to Afghanistan, he said.
“When you add all that in, I think we’ll be well over 40,000 [troops trained] again,” he said.
Senior Army leaders, including Lt. Gen. Don Campbell, commanding general of U.S. Army Europe, have emphasized the Army’s commitment to Europe even as the service cuts about 10,000 soldiers stationed there. Leaders also have talked about the importance of continuing to train together and maintaining the ability to operate together, especially after operations in Afghanistan come to a close.
“We’ve got to train with our partners in tactical, ground maneuver exercises, in decisive action training rotations, and we need to do it with multinational formations,” Piatt said.
In November, the JMTC hosted Combined Resolve I, a multinational exercise that served as “proof of principle” for the way ahead, he said.
Troops from 10 countries participated in the exercise, including an American brigade headquarters and an aviation battalion, an artillery battalion and an infantry battalion from the Czech Republic, a battalion from Slovenia, a Norwegian tank unit and special operations forces from the U.S. and France, Piatt said.
There also are plans for a rotation with the NATO Response Force, which includes soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division.
The division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team has been aligned with EUCOM as part of the Army’s commitment to align its forces with the geographic combatant commands around the world.
In May, soldiers from 1st BCT will lead a training event to “show NATO we’re committed to sending forces here,” Piatt said.
The training also allows U.S. troops to learn from partner nations and work out interoperability issues, he said.
“We don’t know when the next conflict might be, or just a response to a natural disaster, but we know we will be doing things with our partners,” he said. “We know we don’t fight alone, so we should train together.”
It’s critical for the Army to train with its partners, Piatt said.
“It’s one thing to come together in a simulated exercise where you have a multinational headquarters, but when you have a Czech battalion with T-72 tanks working with Slovenian forces on foot, you’ve got to make sure you’re interoperable because the risk is high,” he said. “We’re learning the tough lessons in the training environment so when our nations need us, when NATO needs us, we’re ready to go.”
Piatt estimates that, in 2014, more than half of troops trained at the JMTC will be multinational.
“Our numbers in Europe have drawn down significantly, but we’re training a much larger training audience because it includes our NATO and non-NATO partners,” he said.
The JMTC’s location also is key, he said.
“They’re our neighbors,” he said, adding that most partner armies can just convoy by road to JMTC for training.
In addition to large-scale exercises or training events, the JMTC also has a noncommissioned officers’ academy, a simulation center, and Training Activity Support, Europe, which supports training events in Europe and Africa.
Another unique element of JMTC is the International Special Training Center. Led by an American Special Forces officer, the organization is made up of nine countries, and it supports special operations training for countries in the region, Piatt said.
Europe is home to many close and strong allies of the U.S., Piatt said, and the Army’s continued commitment is important even as some question the cost of keeping troops stationed overseas.
“A stable Europe, with a growing economy, is very much in the U.S.’s interests,” he said. “I don’t think we should ever take anything for granted. We must continue to work together and stay committed to our friends.”■