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Oklahoma National Guard and Latvian forces gain experience at Allied Spirit VI

By Staff Sgt. Christopher Shanley April 3, 2017

HOHENFELS, Germany -- Soldiers from the Oklahoma National Guard are working closely with the 1st Latvian Brigade, during Allied Spirit VI at the 7th Army Training Command's Joint Multinational Readiness Center here, March 24.

U.S. Army Col. Chris Chomosh is the rear detachment commander of the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, and he and his staff are serving as the division headquarters for the exercise. In the exercise, Latvia has provided the brigade headquarters, an infantry battalion, and support troops at every echelon.

"We have National Guard and Reserve, active, and members of 12 different countries that have come together to train here," said Chomosh. "We're learning to work interoperable with our coalition partners for a stronger Europe."

Chomosh recognizes the many benefits of conducting the exercise in the heart of Germany.

"The benefits of coming to Hohenfels, here, is the coalition is here with us," he said.

Chomosh said that training with NATO allies at JMRC provides a unique opportunity to work with partners who speak different languages, learn the capabilities of their forces, and to experience some of their culture, working shoulder-to-shoulder with them.

Lt. Col. Maris Robeznieks of the Latvian army is from the Latvian capital of Riga, and he is training with Chomosh as the deputy commander of the division for the exercise. Robeznieks offered his opinion of training at JMRC.

"This is a great learning opportunity for Latvian forces and for me as an officer," said Robeznieks. "One of the reasons is because a very professional learning environment is created here."

"For the Latvian army, it's also a great opportunity," he said. "We are training here and we are mentored here and within this environment we can develop our forces. It's developed a very good learning environment with very professional mentoring from the low level to the top level."

Both the Oklahoma Guardsmen and Latvian forces gain from the experience of working together at Hohenfels.

The Latvian forces provide a unique blend of skills and knowledge that can offer an advantage to U.S. forces working with them.

"Most of them speak about three to four languages," said Chomosh. He mentioned that some of the Latvian forces once served in the Russian army while others trained with European allies and U.S. forces.

Chomosh spoke of what Oklahoma Guardsmen could take from Allied Spirit VI to share with their units back home.

He said the knowledge gained about NATO allies, their military education, their unique abilities, all will provide a foundation for learning how to work with them to solve common problems.

"We're getting a lot of great training, building depth within our organization, which should help us out in the future," said Chomosh.

Robeznieks was specific about what he gained from the Oklahoma Guardsmen and would be able to share with forces back in Latvia.

"From the Oklahoma National Guard, I personally could take the targeting procedures at divisional level which is not well-developed back in Latvia," said Robeznieks. "This is a real thing that I will bring back to Latvia."

The central role of the National Guard and Reserves in exercises such as Allied Spirit VI has grown over time.

Chomosh said that missions are numerous, but active duty forces in Europe are limited.

"They are actively requesting Guard and Reserve units to step forward and help out with these exercises."

Chomosh recognizes an opportunity for National Guard forces.

"What a perfect time, with the instability in the world and all the things that are going on around us, that National Guard units are able to come here and also contribute and gain and learn from this experience."

Exercise Allied Spirit VI includes about 2,770 participants from 12 NATO and Partner for Peace nations, and exercises tactical interoperability and tests secure communications within Alliance members and partner nations.

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