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Exercise Saber Junction 2020
Latest update: December 2020
US Army Europe: Exercise Sabre Junction 
Exercise Sabre Junction is one of eight exercises organized by the 7 Army Training Command (ATC) throughout Europe. It is responsible for: Allied Spirit, Combined Resolve, Dynamic Front, Noble Partner, Rapid Trident, Saber Guardian, Saber Junction, Saber Strike and Swift Response. Each of the exercises focusses on different training needs of both land forces and aviation units. Most of the exercises are conducted in Eastern European countries. Saber Junction is held at the Hohenfels and Grafenwöhr training areas in Bavaria, Germany and took place from August 3 – 27, 2020. 
7 Army Training Command (Hohenfels and Grafenwöhr) 
US Army Europe’s 7th Army Training Command (7 ATC) is headquartered in Grafenwöhr, Bavaria Germany and commands four brigades: 173 Airborne Brigade, 2 Cavalry regiment, 1 Field Artillery Brigade and 12 Combat Aviation Brigade. 7 ATC is also responsible for training and readiness in the European Command (EUCOM) area of operations and commands four organizations: Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC), Joint Multinational Simulation Center (JMSC), 7 Army Noncommissioned Officer Academy (NCOA) and the Combined Arms Training Center (CATC).

Within 7 ATC the JMRC is the only Army Combat Training Center outside the continental United States. It utilizes the Hohenfels Training Area which consist of 163 km2, 319 kilometers of road and numerous cross-country trails, and has one short take-off/landing airfield. It trains army units up to the level of brigade combat teams. Depending on the division being trained these are Stryker brigade combat teams (infantry divisions) and armored brigade combat teams (armored and cavalry division).

The first are equipped with eight-wheeled vehicles and the last using the M1 Abrams tank and M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles. Assigned to the JMRC are the 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment (1-4 IN) providing the opposing forces and Team Falcon with its helicopters. Located north of Hohenfels is 7 ATC’s Grafenwöhr training area. It is the U.S. Army’s largest and most sophisticated permanent training area in Europe. GTA’s live-fire and maneuver ranges supports U.S. NATO and partner nation live fire qualifications ranging from small arms to tanks, artillery, aerial gunnery and close air support. GTA is composed of 4 branches: the maneuver branch, scheduling branch, safety branch and range support branch.
Sabre Junction 2020 
The exercise focusses on training the 173 Airborne Brigade which is based in Vicenza, Italy. The “sky soldiers” participate in multiple exercises throughout Europe. The Brigade is trained to conduct para jump and air assault operations. For para jumps they are supported by USAF C-130 Hercules and/or C-17A Globemaster III squadrons. These often operate from Ramstein air base near the city of Kaiserslautern. Air Assault operations are trained with their partners from 12 Combat Aviation Brigade (12 CAB) headquartered at Ansbach, Bavaria. The US Army also rotates one of the state side CABs for a nine-month period to Europe. 101 CAB, 101 Airborne Division stationed at Campbell army airfield (AAF), Fort Campbell, Kentucky arrived in July. Part of the battalions are operating out of Illesheim AAF with the other battalions forward deployed to the Baltic nations, Poland and Romania.

Foreign participants taking part in the exercise were deployed from Eastern European NATO countries (Albania, Latvia, Lithuania, North Macedonia, Romania) and partner nations (Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine). Before exercise Sabre Junction commenced all participants were quarantined for a two-week period. Due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic the 2020 edition of Saber Junction saw less participants than previous years. Still more than 4.000 participants took part in the exercise.

The action started on Monday August 17, 2020. Normally the 173 Airborne Brigade “Sky soldiers” are inserted by transport aircraft but this time they requested an air assault. 12 CAB provided its Blackhawk and Chinook helicopters and received support from US Marine Corps VMM-263 (Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263) “Thunder Chickens”. The Marine squadron is stationed at MCAS New River, North Carolina. It is currently deployed to Morón, Spain in support of Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa. VMM-263 participated with four of its MV-22B Osprey operating out of Grafenwöhr. All these aircraft inserted the troops of 173 Airborne Brigade while B/1-24 GSAB with its Chinook also flew with sling loads to bring in the heavier equipment for the Sky soldiers.
12 Combat Aviation Brigade 
The US Army currently fields 12 active-duty Combat Aviation Brigades. Two of these are based outside the United States. 2 CAB in the Republic of Korea and 12 CAB in Germany. Compared to its colleagues 12 CAB is the smallest. As a result of defense budget cuts and the related deactivation or reallocation of aviation regiments US Army Europe lost most of its aviation assets. This also impacted the 12 CAB organization who saw most of its battalions withdrawn from its structure.

The US Army initiated Operation Atlantic Resolve (OAR) by sending a CAB for a period of nine months to Europe from early 2017. At the same time a brigade combat team is deployed to Europe. 12 CAB is augmented by the rotational CAB. It enables them to focus on its own training objectives and support its army colleagues, mainly in Germany. The rotational CAB support all other US Army Europe directed taskings. These are primarily aimed at reassuring the eastern European NATO countries through OAR.

For Saber Junction 12 CAB deployed with one of its Apache companies assigned to 1-3 ARB. These were augmenting A/1-214 GSAB who brought almost all the UH-60M Blackhawks it has been assigned. Both units were operating together as Task Force Duke. Furthermore B/1-214 GSAB “Big Windy” brought half of its company in support of the heavy lift missions. Stationed at nearby Grafenwöhr are the medevac equipped Blackhawks assigned to US Army Air Ambulance Aviation Detachment Grafenwöhr. USAAAD relocated to Hohenfels for Saber Junction.
Joint Multinational Readiness Center: Team Falcon
The Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC) is headquartered at USAG Bavaria, Hohenfels Training Area. JMRC has one aviation unit assigned known as the Falcon Team. The Falcon Team observes, coaches and trains U.S. and multinational aviation battalions and companies during their planning, preparation and execution phases of simulated combat operations at JMRC.

Eight UH-72A Lakota (Airbus Helicopters H145, formerly Eurocopter EC145) are assigned to the Falcons. These are equally divided between four green and four camouflaged helicopters. Its green Lakota’s are flying with the company being trained. The camouflaged UH-72A’s are equipped with four Tactical Engagement Simulation System (TESS). These laser receivers are positioned on the skids, two on each side. When the Lakota is hit its TESS flashes green so the ground forces know the aircraft is destroyed. The UH-72 itself can ‘return fire’ by using its own laser system.

Captain Sean Boniface (OC/T: Observer Coach/Trainer) is one of the aviators assigned to the Falcon Team and talks about the detachments mission during exercises. “The green ones during the exercise are mostly uses as OC aircraft. For example with a green Lakota I would fly in formation with three maybe for Apaches and I will talk to the crews. I will talk to the crews and I will talk to my base operations and I will help control what they are doing and give them information to conduct their mission.”

“The primary task for the JMRC is to train the units that come here. Ahead of time we will have discussions and planning conferences with the aviation unit(s) that come here to train. They outline for use specifically what they would like to train. As also US Army aviators we know what their mission is and will help them to build plans. When they come here for execution we will coach and evaluate them on their training.” During Sabre Junction they supported 12 CAB with their tasks. “One battalion of 12 CAB is here, 1-214 GSAB (General Support Aviation Battalion). That is exactly the unit we are working with. Coaching and training and helping them their tactical tasks. As they are a GSAB they focus on heavy lift operations, lift operations and medevac operations. Those are the three biggest tasks we are helping them to train.” Except the specific training needs the detachment also supports Hohenfels general aviation requests. “The JMRC aviation detachment we help the rest of the installation with aviation expertise. Sometimes we are asked for assistance. For example, we were flying COVID samples to different hospitals for testing test so we will help with different missions.
JMRC remaining exercises in 2020 
After exercise Saber Junction was concluded the JMRC was already in the process of preparing the next exercises. In the period from 2 – 29 September it hosted exercise Combined Resolve XIV (CR XIV). Nearly 3.500 participants from eight nations deployed to the Hohenfels and Grafenwöhr training areas. The 2 Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3 Infantry Division deployed related to its evaluation and assessment of its readiness. Other US Army participants taking part in CR XIV were: 1 Cavalry Division, 101 Combat Aviation Brigade, 18 Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 407 Civil Affairs Battalion and 3 Battalion, 121 Infantry Regiment of the Georgia National Guard. In October, the Grafenwöhr ranges will support 12 CAB in one of its annual two or three live firing exercises.

Both the Hohenfels and Grafenwöhr training areas provide a unique location outside the United States to train US Army ground and aviation brigades to prepare them for and evaluate them on their mission readiness.
The author would like to thank Major Robert Fellingham 12 CAB PAO, Captain Sean Boniface (OC/T) JMRC Team Falcon and the PAO staff US Army Europe JMRC.
Photo gallery participants Exercise Saber Junction 2020
 AH-64D Apache attack helicopters  assigned to 1-3 ARB, 12 CAB departing  the Hohenfels landing zone. 
 Chinooks assigned to B1-214 GSAB "Big Windy" at the  Forward Arming and Refueling Point (FARP) on the Hohenfels training area   While an Apache conducts its reconnaissance and patrol mission.
After completing their mission the
AH-64Ds also arrived at the FARP.
A medevac UH-60A+ assigned to C/1-214 GSAB also took part in the exercise.
A/1-214 GSAB is assigned the UH-60M Blackhawk. Based at Wiesbaden AAF Alpha company is mostly tasked with VIP transport missions. A "Big Windy" CH-47F parked in the forest of the Hohenfels training area.
Another Chinook at the FARP after being serviced for its next mission. Team Falcon, JMRC, operates the UH-72A Lakota  and had four green and four camouflaged helicopters assigned. 
Team Falcons trains visiting helicopter battalions. The green ones flying with the unit on exercise while the camouflaged Lakota's fly the adversary role.
A Lakota parked on the ramp of team Falcon at Hohenfels.     
Tags: United States, United States Army, Combat Aviation Brigades, Regiments and battalions USAR, Operation Atlantic Resolve, Airbus Helicopters, H145M