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    Trojan Footprint 22 tests interoperability, increases allied partnership

    Trojan Footprint 22 tests interoperability, increases allied partnership

    Photo By Tech. Sgt. Candin Muniz | U.S. Airmen assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing and Croatian Airmen assigned...... read more read more



    Story by Pfc. Kirsti Anne Beckett 

    U.S. Special Operations Command Europe   

    STUTTGART, Germany – Trojan Footprint (TFP) 22 is the most significant exercise of the year for Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR), and in 2022 it is especially historic, as it is now the largest SOF exercise in Europe to date. This year’s iteration ran from May 2 – 13 with more than 3,300 participants from 30 nations taking part in joint training across Southeastern Europe, the Baltics and the Black Sea Region.

    U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) proactively trained with and learned from NATO allies and European partners from the high north all the way to the Adriatic Sea to demonstrate their collective military readiness to deploy and respond to any crisis that may arise.

    Trojan Footprint 22 is the premier exercise of U.S. Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR) and the primary SOF certification event to assess the readiness and ability of SOF to counter threats. In addition to certification, the message that TFP presents is one of transatlantic solidarity. It demonstrates the security commitments of the participating nations to defense along NATO’s eastern flank.

    “One of our priorities is building resilience against adversary efforts to undermine democratic processes and values,” said Maj. Gen. David H. Tabor, Commander of Special Operations Command Europe. “This joint, combined training in Europe will continue to build and strengthen those relationships with our allies and partners, establishing a common sight-picture for combat and peacekeeping missions abroad.”

    The earliest known run of Trojan Footprint dates back to 2013. Prior to that, Exercise Jackal Stone served a similar purpose. Over the last decade, an evolution has taken place that has allowed for SOCEUR to meet the need of a multinational exercise at the kind of scale at which TFP is now operating.

    “Trojan Footprint is a message. It’s a strategic message. And it’s an exercise built around that strategic message,” said Darek Coker, the lead exercise planner for TFP. “It’s very important to keep that in mind when planning and when a country comes into the exercise. Just by bringing their flag to the exercise, those countries are contributing to that message of transatlantic solidarity in more ways than they could possibly imagine.”

    The nations participating in TFP included Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the U.K., and the U.S. Land, air, and sea operations for Trojan Footprint 22 took place in fifteen host nations along NATO’s eastern borders.

    When developing the concept behind Trojan Footprint 22, Derek Coker explained that the planners drew up a scenario that reflected how the current battle space has slowly progressed over recent years.

    “It was designed to be a slow-boil - a low intensity conflict that can span years but creates constant pressure in various ways,” he said. "The adversary attacks certain nations’ ability to govern, creating internal dissonance and infighting that hacks away at the legitimacy of these governments, in essence trying to demonstrate that these nations are unable to govern themselves.”

    In light of such a background, creating an environment in which SOF and conventional forces across multiple nations can learn from and instruct each other on best military practices and tactics accomplishes exactly what TFP is designed to accomplish: force multiplication and an incorruptible solidarity that is capable of standing up to said threat.

    “Coming up with priorities, ensuring the training readiness of the command and making sure that the command is ready to go to war as a staff is the Exercises Directorate’s top priority,” Coker explained. “Making sure our allies and partners are equally ready is paramount, should conflict arise. Hence Trojan Footprint.”

    To accomplish the shared objective of establishing standardized operational capabilities, a new asset to this year’s improved and expanded TFP included a combined joint force headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. Fifteen coalition partners participated in the crisis planning from three different NATO-secret locations, writing the orders and accessing the minute details that are cumbersome and often taken for granted, but critical to ensuring exercise success.

    The unprecedented presence of a Combined Joint Force Special Operations Command allowed the participating nations at HQ to establish a common operating picture and common intelligence picture in a way that has not been done before.

    “Being able to command and control all SOF within the theater in a secure network and make sure the operators on ground have a common understanding from one country to the next is a next-level capability,” Coker said. “That capability supports and reinforces the diplomatic and economic efforts happening simultaneously across the theater.”

    For the planners behind the scenes both at HQ and on ground, considering the scale of moving pieces and countries involved meant months of advanced planning and coordination. Derek Leimeister, one of SOCEUR’s chief logisticians, noted the rules within Europe and border-crossing requirements when it comes to American equipment.

    “Moving potentially sensitive items such as ammunition demands paperwork and planning that is outlined and rehearsed well in advance to ensure it can cross the necessary borders,” he said. “The reward that comes from watching troops and equipment successfully deployed, however, is unparalleled when working with exceptional partners.”

    A senior Civil Affairs (CA) planner with 10th Special Forces Group spoke to how successfully the exercise was carried out because of the capable partnership between allied logisticians.

    “When you watch them work, you realize how incredibly professional and capable they are. Despite changes, weather problems, mechanical issues, and real-world requirements, they get the people and equipment where we need them,” he observed. “Our tactical and HQ elements can rapidly set up, establish communications, and begin conducting their assigned missions. NATO is a capable and credible deterrent because of the incredibly talented and dedicated people who make up our allied military forces.”

    The two-week exercise increased the integration of SOF with conventional forces and highlighted the professional skill sets of land, air, and sea units to respond to hybrid threats through inconspicuous theatre entry and exit. As an exercise in coalition building, TFP 22 focused on cultivating trust and developing lasting relationships that will promote peace and stability throughout Europe.

    “Special Operations Forces remain a pillar of international defense, and close coordination between SOF and conventional forces acts as a force multiplier, leveraging the discreet capabilities of SOF to enhance lethality and dominance on the battlefield,” Maj. Gen. Tabor said. “SOF elements add capabilities, technology, and strength to conventional forces throughout Europe.”

    Capt. Kelly Butterfield of the United States Air Force 820th Base Defense Group (BDG) Squadron and the on-ground officer for TFP operations in Croatia, described the opportunity to work with the Croatian and Bulgarian Special Operations Task Units (SOTUs) as an honor.

    “Being able to fully integrate with our SOF NATO partners bolsters our forces and strengthens our teams to guarantee mission success,” he said.

    While in Croatia, the 820th BDG participated in multiple missions led by the SOTU, including joint forcible entry training, during which they supplied their Military Working Dog Team communication assets and support by fire. Training also included airway and respiration management, ultrasound use, combat animal aid and tactical combat casualty care, led by the United States Air Force Special Operations Command Medical Security Cooperation, to increase force readiness.

    A Bulgarian SOF operator who participated in the training emphasized that interoperability is not just a word that gets thrown around in these trainings; it can be the difference between life and death when working together as a coalition during conflict.

    “Interoperability is a partnership quality that requires a lot of resources, combined effort and joint understanding of what the bigger picture is,” he said. “We have to support each other in order to get better in every aspect of our job, as well as be similarly trained.”

    Further north, a SOF operator from Estonia who is a veteran TFP participant conducted multiple direct action raids with his team during TFP 22 against role players acting as separatist cell members. The goal of these drills was to gather intelligence that would enable further operations while working with U.S. SOF counterparts. Having seen all the TFP exercises that have taken place in Estonia in 2016, 2018, and now 2022, he reflected on how it has changed over the years and continues to fortify the bonds of the participants.

    “For me and most of Estonian SOF, Exercise Trojan Footprint provides an excellent environment to practice and synchronize training goals from the Special Operations Task Unit (SOTU) level up to the highest international levels of command,” the Estonian operator said. “At the same time all the positive challenges of a combined international exercise are present, starting from tactical interoperability in the field ranging up to the synchronized use of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) of different level national and international headquarters. We are with our friends, who will be here in the event of a real crisis.”



    Date Taken: 05.25.2022
    Date Posted: 05.25.2022 10:31
    Story ID: 421484
    Location: STUTTGART, DE

    Web Views: 597
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