By Senior Airman Jonathan Padish
| 1st Squadron, 152nd Cavalry Regiment, 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 38th Infantry Division, Ind | Dec. 2, 2019
U.S. Army Spc. Sean Gilbert, a Shelbyville, Ind. soldier and the Team 2 leader for the 1st Squadron, 152nd Cavalry Regiment, 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 38th Infantry Division, Indiana Army National Guard, looks to the rear of a tactical formation during a reconnaissance and surveillance rehearsal exercise at Lešť military training center, Slovakia, Nov. 1, 2019. Soldiers from the IN ARNG deployed to Slovakia for Slovak Shield 2019, a multinational NATO war-fighting exercise involving U.S., Slovak, Czech, Polish, Hungarian and Portuguese armed forces. (Photo by Senior Airman Jonathan Padish)
Boots, trucks, rifles, and rain. Lots of rain. The normal ingredients of a dismounted field training exercise were ever apparent to soldiers assigned to the 1st Squadron, 152nd Cavalry Regiment, 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 38th Infantry Division, Indiana Army National Guard. There was, however, one new factor: operating in a foreign country alongside NATO allies.
From the end of October through mid-November, soldiers from 1-152 CAV deployed to Lešť military training center, Slovakia to participate in Slovak Shield 2019, a NATO war-fighting exercise involving the United States, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and Portugal.
“This is a learning environment,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. L. Andrew Zartman, a Greenfield soldier and squadron commander for the 1-152 CAV.
The field training exercise, designed to simulate home defense operations in the Slovak Republic, was conducted in the context of small joint operations in accordance with collective defense under NATO Article V. Moreover, the training provided immediate training impacts for IN ARNG soldiers from the 1-152 CAV.
“The big reason for this type of exercise is to provide realistic training to our soldiers,” said U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Garreck Gabbard, a North Vernon, Ind. native who serves as a platoon leader for Charlie Troop, 1-152 CAV. “Here, we’re operating how we would operate anywhere. It’s a good opportunity to deal with what we’re used to.”
Line soldiers echoed similar sentiments regarding the likeness between training in Slovakia and training in Indiana.
“It’s a lot like Camp Atterbury but in another country,” said U.S. Army Spc. Claudio Alejandro Santo Rentas, a Fortville, Ind. soldier and troop operations cavalry scout assigned to 1-152 CAV. “It’s very similar to training environments we’re typically in.”
As with training in the U.S., training in Slovakia allowed Indiana soldiers to refine their battle capabilities.
“The whole point of field training is to refine, test and learn,” said Rentas. “We do a lot of cross training — learning the job above and teaching the job below.”
Of course, operating in a foreign country carries with it certain challenges.
“Aside from the language barrier there’s a communication barrier,” said Rentas. “For example, the Slovaks called something that had a maintenance failure a ‘mobility kill,’ which is very different from the terminology we use.”
Still, certain things like camaraderie are common amongst all soldiers regardless of nationality.
“Even though there’s a language barrier, certain interactions are the same,” said Rentas. “If I give a foreign soldier a uniform patch, he gives me a uniform patch. I don’t know anything about him, but he gave me a uniform patch he probably wore for a couple years. That’s cool.”
More importantly, the exercise gave soldiers real-world field experience to train and prepare for future battles involving the U.S. and its allies.
“I enjoy knowing the guys in the squadron are getting the opportunity to do training like this,” said Gabbard. “The training is very beneficial. That’s the best part of the exercise.”
By the end of the exercise, 1-152 CAV soldiers will be able to take home countless memories from an overseas exercise, new friendships with NATO counterparts and invaluable military skillsets to bring mission-critical reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities to battlefield commanders.