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Ardent Ground

Exercise Ardent Ground is the NATO's Supreme European Commander's annual live firing exercise to train one of his Immediate Reaction Force, equipped for deployment across the full spectrum of operations from humanitarian assistance through peace support operations and crisis response. Initial elements of this force, [Allied Mobile Force (land)], can mobilise within 72 hours, with the remaining force, equipment and supplies capable of deployment in thirteen days.

The Ardent Ground-9 military exercise planned by NATO European Allied Forces Supreme Headquarters (SHAPE) were held near the southeastern town of Sarikamis in Turkey. Units from Germany, Belgium, Britain, Holland, Denmark, the US and Canada arrived in the area for the exercise which was commanded by the NATO Southeast Europe Allied Land Forces Headquarters. The aim of the exrcise beginning on September 20 was to improve artilerry skills for fighter jet support and to coordinate strategy in order to handle any crises on NATO's southern wing. The exercise, which was held in three phases, ended on October 6 and NATO forces returned to their countries on October 10.

Exercise Ardent Ground '98 tested the ability of artillery and mortar sections from the US, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Spain and the United Kingdom to fight alongside each other as part of NATO's Allied Mobile Force (Land). The United States was represented by paratroopers from the Italy-based Southern European Task Force's 1st Battalion, 508th Infantry, Airborne Combat Team.

Soldiers from SETAF's Battery D, 319th Field Artillery, and the 81mm mortar platoon from 1st Bn.'s Headquarters and HQs. Company, donned their parachutes during the five-hour flight from Italy to England. Most of the soldiers were eager to exit the planes after more than five hours of nap-of-the-earth flying but, upon stepping out of the paratroop doors, they were surprised by the vicious wind gusts that carried them quickly across the drop zone and plunked them into the mud.

The soldiers jumped right into action, setting up their howitzers and mortars while heavy-drop 'chutes were still billowing behind them. Under the watchful eye of British observer-controllers, Btry. D even put artillery rounds downrange right from the drop zone. Once they managed to brush off the mud and get off the drop zone, the soldiers had other challenges to face. The Italy-based paratroopers were very surprised how cold the moors of the Otterburn Training Area, near England's border with Scotland, could be in the middle of the summer. Temperatures at Otterburn hovered at around 40 degrees, and daily rainstorms combined with the quicksand-like mud to create a very challenging training environment.

In addition to coping with the weather, the paratroopers had to learn how to operate under a headquarters made up of soldiers from six countries, who were speaking five languages. The artillerymen and mortarmen spent their first days learning how the AMF(L) headquarters wanted them to operate. After that, they began putting rounds on target. The biggest challenge was to adapt to their call-for-fire and air-assault procedures.

The exercise was especially challenging for the mortarmen. Not many of the paratroopers in the 81mm mortar platoon had more than a year in the unit. Many had barely been in the Army a year. But the exercise proved that they could come together as a team to hold their own against soldiers from other NATO countries while they put rounds downrange with pinpoint accuracy at a blistering pace.

Ardent Ground'97 was carried out in Turkey's European territory of Thrace with the participation of the US, Canada, Italy, Norway, Holland, Germany, Belgium, Spain and Great Britain on April 28 - May 18. The maneuvres, which were backed by air support, aim to improve the artillery capability of NATO's light mobile land forces.

Aircrews from the 37th Airlift Squadron at Ramstein Air Base flew six C-130 Hercules aircraft to Aviano Air Base, Italy, 27 April 2000 so they could hook up with their frequent-flying partners -- paratroopers from the Southern European Task Force. The transport planes left Italy April 28 and headed for Hungarian skies where they airdropped 100 paratroopers from SETAF's D Battery, 319th Field Artillery Company as part of Exercise Ardent Ground 2000. The airdrop included two howitzers and two humvees. Ardent Ground is an annual NATO live-fire exercise led by Allied Forces Central Europe Mobile Forces. Participants include military forces from the United States, Hungary, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom. Ramstein's role included participation by 62 airmen supporting the airdrop mission. The low-level flying mission in Hungary, culminating with an airdrop into an unfamiliar drop zone boosted the 37th Airlift Squadron's combat capability.

The exercise Ardent Ground 2001 took place in western Poland from 28 April to 24 May 2001. Approximately 3000 military personnel participated from Belgium, the Czech republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Poland, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Host nation support was provided by the Polish armed forces.

The aim of the exercise is to deploy and exercise this force in joint live firing and air operations, including a joint air attack team. Seven artillery batteries, five mortar platoons, fixed wing aircraft and helicopters plus associated supporting elements will take part. Ardent ground gives a strong signal of NATO's resolve and solidarity as the contributing nations work together in a multinational, integrated force with common procedures and shared logistic support.

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