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Folgore Brigade paratroopers add Italian flavor to Saber Junction 13

October 23, 2012

By David Ruderman, USAG Vicenza Public Affairs

VICENZA, Italy - More than 35 Italian paratroopers wrapped up training in the Saber Junction 13 (SJ-13) multinational exercise at the Vicenza Mission Training Complex on Caserma Ederle Oct. 19.

The soldiers, members of the 187th Regiment, Folgore Brigade, stationed in Livorno, were one of 19 national contingents taking part in the exercise organized by Joint Multinational Training Command in Grafenwoehr, Germany. The Folgore executed wide-area security operations and reserve forces component roles in the course of SJ-13, said Col. Rodolfo Sganga, brigade commander.

"We are playing the role within the rear area . . . and for us it's a great opportunity to experience and to work within the multinational environment to test procedures, to see how the others work," Sganga said.

"It's mutually beneficial to us as well as them," said Col. Jeffrey Meeker, director of the Joint Multinational Simulation Center, who was in Vicenza to observe the Italian component at work. "He's got a fairly new staff and so he's able to get an assessment of how those individuals are operating as a team, as well as to gain a better understanding and better integration with U.S. forces on how we do our planning processes as well as our command and control."

Sganga's main objective is to prepare his staff for its upcoming deployment to Operation Enduring Freedom, he said.

"We are working on the procedures for the staff, and I would say this is the first refinement. We expect to have established rough procedures at the end of this exercise," said Sganga.

"So I expect to deploy with a fully operational and capable staff. This is very important for us because, let's say, every couple of years the key elements of the staff are changing. So we need to re-train and re-train and re-train," he said.

In addition to training up its staff for their upcoming deployment, the Folgore made a significant contribution to SJ-13, which focused on live maneuvers by the 2nd Cavalry Regiment at JMTC's Maneuver Rights Area in Bavaria, said Meeker.

"The benefit from our side is we get the multinational aspect, which is very prevalent in the Saber Junction rotation. You've got 2nd Cavalry Regiment, doing the live piece out on the Maneuver Rights Area up in Graf-Hohenfels. There are several other nations involved as well, playing the roles of multinational partners, host nation forces and supporting the opposing forces fighting against the 2nd Cavalry Regiment.

"It gives us the platform to get those multinational partners together in a training environment to learn each other's practices -- the decision-making process, command and control, those types of things -- before you go do it as part of a multinational organization in a theater of operations," said Meeker.

"Here specifically within Vicenza, it's a benefit to both sides. They're able to expand the exercise by their inclusion here as a constructive, or simulated, unit in the battle space. So that causes the division to consider their needs for resources as well as the 2nd Cavalry Regiment with the DATE (Decisive Action Training Environment) . . . so they have to consider both sides and they have to set priorities between the two.

"So to command and control both of those elements gives it more of a realistic flavor of what it's really like in a theater of operations," Meeker said.

"We can do it with the simulations or we can do it live or with a combination, a mix of both, so that when you deploy for the first time you're not learning how to establish those relationships. Those relationships are pre-established," he said.

Sganga said, "The quality of the simulation is very high. . . . We can simulate every flow of information, every dynamic among the staff, so it's great. I mean it's very adherent to the one you can find in operations when you deploy."

Remarks at the after action review backed up his positive assessment.

"It was really a great exercise, very, very good training for us," said Lt. Col. Mariano Bianchi, 187th Regiment battalion commander and SJ-13 exercise controller. "It was so realistic that the atmosphere of the exercise was sometimes indistinguishable from that of a real mission. . . . The scenario story line was extremely detailed, coherent and well written."

The Folgore's participation also allows the JMSC to plan ahead for the next iteration of Saber Junction, which will include participation by the Vicenza-based 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, said Meeker.

"We're pre-planning for that now, gathering the lessons learned from what happened here, and how do we make this that much better for the 173rd? . . . My assumption there again, I think a pretty good assumption, is it'll have a really large multinational flavor. That's part of what we can do here in USAREUR or over here in Europe, is to pull those multinationals in and give them a training opportunity as part of the exercise," he said.

"Jim (James Beverly, chief of the Vicenza Mission Training Complex) and his team definitely will be on site in Vicenza for the foreseeable future to support that," Meeker said, pointing out the VMTC's long-term role is to provide Title X training to both the 173rd ABCT and U.S. Army Africa.

"Jim has capabilities to link into us. We can pass the simulations back and forth between us and Jim's site here from Grafenwoehr. I also have the capability of surging assets, so if he has a larger exercise that he doesn't have the capacity to execute down here with his personnel and equipment, we can push down here as well. So that's the relationship. He's part of our headquarters, part of the team, out here at a remote site and we support him as necessary to achieve his mission," he said.

Leaders from both nations remarked at the after action review on the Folgore's interest in conducting similar training in the future.

"Now we know where you live and we'll come back. It was really a warm, warm environment," Bianchi said.

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