Georgia Army National Guard Partners with Georgian Armed Forces at Noble Partner 18
U.S. Soldiers from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment and 171st Aviation Regiment, Georgia Army National Guard, flew with Germany’s 39th Panzergrenadier Battalion in two Black Hawk helicopters over the picturesque landscape of the small nation of Georgia. The small air assault simulation was part of the kick-off to Noble Partner 18, an exercise designed to demonstrate interoperability, readiness, capabilities and partnership of the attending countries’ forces.
A U.S. Army Europe and Georgian Armed Forces-led exercise in its fourth iteration, Exercise Noble Partner 18 garnered the participation of over 3,000 troops from 13 nations this past August. In addition to forces from the host country of Georgia, forces from the United States, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Estonia, France, Germany, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Kingdom all took part in this year’s exercise.
Noble Partner supported the training of Georgian Armed Forces’ mechanized and Special Operations Forces. Key tasks were conducting reception staging and onward movement (RSOM), conducting reverse RSOM, a tactical road march, combined urban operations, air assaults and combined live-fire exercises in the vicinities of the Vaziani and Camp Norio Training Areas in Georgia.
“We were able to design some very challenging and complex live fires, which pushed our Soldiers to make decisions under pressure in an environment in which we were reliant on our Georgian partners,” said LTC Andrew Gallo, commander of 3rd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment. “The relationship between the United States and Georgia has been made much stronger at the tactical level.”
Georgia has a very good reason to promote the training of its armed forces. While Georgia gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 and has since had close ties with the West, its location along the Black Sea near the borders of Eastern Europe places it in dangerous proximity to Russian-affiliated forces.
“They’ve got their own border challenges,” noted MAJ Colin Thompson, State Partnership Program (SPP) director for the Georgia National Guard. “The goal of Georgia is to be a prosperous part of the European community. Right now, 20 percent of their territory is occupied. That is the thing the Georgians would like to remedy. They just want to be a free and sovereign country.”
The CIA’s World Fact Book states that for the nation of Georgia, “Joining the EU and NATO are among the country’s top foreign policy goals.”
“They are not an allied member of NATO, but they are definitely a significant partner,” MAJ Thompson added.
Noble Partner 18 served not only to support the training of Georgian troops, but also those of the many nations partnering in the event. The training scenarios required the soldiers to build proficiency in working together.
“I guess the key word [is] interoperability,” said COL Anthony Fournier, the Georgia Army National Guard’s co-director for Noble Partner 18. “To continue developing interoperability within our partner nations, which includes Georgia, helps us get used to working together so that we can deploy alongside each other and be able to talk and know each other’s strengths and weaknesses.”
An ongoing aspect of interoperability between Georgia and the United States is the SPP relationship between the State of Georgia and the country of Georgia. That partnership will be a quarter-century old next year. Chief of the National Guard Bureau and member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, GEN Joseph Lengyel, spoke to the importance of the relationship during his speech at the Noble Partner 18 opening ceremony at Vaziani Training Area.
“This enduring partnership, based on mutual respect and common interests, has enhanced the capacities of our respective militaries and deepened our understanding and friendships between the United States and Georgia,” he said. “Our partnership has expanded to focus more on combat-centric readiness as demonstrated by exercises like [Noble Partner]. This exercise should lead to a better understanding of how we exercise, how we operate and how we work together toward a greater security cooperation effort.”
MAJ Thompson commented on the significance of having such high-level leadership present at the event.
“I think for [GEN Lengyel] to come out and visit the State of Georgia — as we were the only National Guard entity in the exercise — was significant for us,” he said. “It shows the commitment and the resolve of the United States to maintaining a strong presence in European exercises like Noble Partner.”
MAJ Dan Fall, collective training officer for the Georgia Army National Guard’s Joint Force Headquarters, agreed on the importance of the exercise that represents one of the most complex training initiatives conducted between the State of Georgia and the country of Georgia in the history of their 24-year partnership.
“I’ve been helping the Georgia Army National Guard coordinate these deployment training activities for seven years now,” he acknowledged. “For my part, at a personal level, I think that [Noble Partner] is some of the most realistic and critically important training in which a National Guard Soldier can participate.”
The air assault during the opening ceremony was a hint of what was to take place over the following few days. As part of one of the many training simulations during Noble Partner, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 171st Aviation Regiment, Georgia Army National Guard, participated in a troop-insertion exercise with Georgian Special Operations Forces at the Vaziani Training Area.
“We had a great training scenario with the host nation of Georgia. We operated with Georgian Special Forces to conduct an infiltration and exfiltration of a high-value target,” said CW3 Joseph J. McNamara, UH-60 pilot for Georgia’s 171st Aviation Regiment.
Before their deployment overseas, MAJ Fall spoke about the scenarios in which the 171st would be participating.
“They will be [participating in the] air assault operations, aerial gunnery live fire and supporting ground live-fire exercises,” he noted.
COL Fournier commented on how the intensity of live-fire exercises has a tendency to enhance the Soldiers’ focus.
“I would say once you put live fire in there, it takes it up a notch as far as readiness and preparation,” he said. “It gives Soldiers more confidence in what they are doing. Just being overseas training with foreign armies – doing an air assault with the Georgian Special Forces – also boosts confidence levels. The terrain is different, the temperature is a little different over there – it all gives a different experience, a different environment. So it [works to boost] your skill and confidence in your skills.”
For the Soldiers, Noble Partner was not only an opportunity for field training, but also to exchange ideas, build relationships and experience a different culture.
SGT James Anderson is a signal support specialist and was the 1-171st Communications Section team leader during the exercise.
“My goal was to ensure that the battalion, including the helicopter [crews], had communication both internally and with the other forces,” SGT Anderson said. “I [had the opportunity to] talk shop a lot with the British on how they used their equipment and the type of equipment they had.”
COL Fournier spoke to the importance of understanding the differing cultures present at a joint event like Noble Partner, noting what he would like to see Soldiers take away from the event.
“I’d want them to hopefully get the impression that these other nations are working with very professional armies,” he said. “I’d like them to understand how we work together with other nations. And hopefully, they will have a good time training over there, as I have done in the past.”
COL Fournier has been to the country of Georgia three times previous to Noble Partner 18. In 2016, he was the deputy director for that year’s Noble Partner exercise, he said.
“My first time there, I went for four months back in 2007 as part of what was called GSSOP [Georgia Sustainment Stability Operations Program]. I assisted in training a [Georgian] brigade to go to Iraq.”
COL Fournier went on to note that back then, when he had time off on weekends, he would go down to the local town to try the food, get to know the people and see the Georgian sights. He said it was a great experience and that he admires the culture, which has a history that dates back not decades or centuries, but millennia.
By the closing of the exercise, the 190 participating Georgia National Guard Soldiers had gained valuable training, built interoperability with partnering forces and strengthened their relationship with their SPP counterparts. By all accounts, the mission was deemed a success.
“These tasks were not easy,” said BG Reginald Neal, director of the Joint Staff for the Georgia National Guard, as he addressed a formation of soldiers during Noble Partner 18’s closing ceremony. “But due to your perseverance and ability to work together through daily challenges, this exercise has been a tremendous success.”
BY STAFF WRITER Matthew Liptak