As a relentless opposing force counters each maneuver, and exercise observers critique every decision, troopers assigned to the Army’s 2nd Cavalry Regiment undergo tough training at the Saber Junction 17 exercise held at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center here.

As the combat training certification for the regiment, this year’s Saber Junction exercise, held April 25 to May 19, tests troop operational and tactical decision making skills to assess unit readiness to conduct unified land operations.

Soldiers are tested on every level, from flexibility in their positions to maintaining equipment and morale while operating in the often-unpredictable weather and challenging terrain found in the deeply wooded training area here.

Halfway through the rigorous exercise energy management is key, along with building camaraderie.

For Army Spc. Brandon Casey, a machine gunner assigned to Iron Troop, 3rd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, new military buddies are everywhere.

“Jak sie masz,” Casey says to a Polish soldier operating a radio near his firing position, a phrase that translates in English to, “How’s it going?”

Growing up in Chicago, Casey learned Polish at home. He often offers the casual greeting to Polish soldiers he encounters. Each exchange follows the same look of surprise by the receiving Polish soldier, after hearing a U.S. soldier speak Polish, followed by a smile and a momentary reprieve from training.

‘You Can’t Get Better Training Than This’

“The tactical scenario started the moment we crossed the Autobahn, delivering a constant near-peer, rough and extremely realistic aggressor,” said Army Capt. Alex Rubliar, platoon leader, Kronos Troop, 3rd Squadron, 2d Cavalry Regiment. “You can’t get better training than this.”

Wrapping up the first phase of the exercise, the regiment shifts from a defensive posture to an offensive one. This transition enhances troop and leader ability to conduct land operations within different postures helping to meet an overarching challenge for soldiers with deployment experience in a counterinsurgency, or COIN, environment.

“For the soldiers that have deployed previously, the near-peer fight here is a distinct shift in focus and priorities from COIN operations. The scenario here sets the fight in a sovereign state with a viable government able to handle humanitarian needs — that is no longer our focus,” Rubliar said. “It’s a mentality shift and a paradigm shift in training, but the fundamentals stay the same.”

Over a week into the exercise, troopers have encountered a skillful aggressor with armor, air and electronic warfare capabilities. The 2nd Cavalry Regiment’s commander, Army Col. Patrick Ellis, requested one of the toughest scenarios yet, and that, he said, is exactly what the training area here has delivered.

The regiment’s soldiers are using the training here to focus on improving interoperability with allied nations’ forces.

“We’re working alongside British tankers, Polish and Italian soldiers, along with German locals staged in notional towns, coming together to share intelligence and pass along high-value targets with extreme reliability,” Rubliar said.