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    Special Operations Command Europe leads Trojan Footprint 24: the premiere special operations forces exercise in Europe


    Photo By Sgt. 1st Class Cahugh Giles | A Georgian special operations forces soldier maintains security during an early...... read more read more

    Ranging from the Black Sea to the Balkans and extending between Germany, Greece, and Georgia, the month of March was kinetic for the special operations community in Europe as 12 nations participated in exercise Trojan Footprint, sending approximately 2,000 total participants to various training locations in Bulgaria, Georgia, Germany, Greece, North Macedonia, and Romania. Trojan Footprint is a biannual exercise and the largest special operations forces exercise in the European theater in which the U.S. participates.

    “The purpose of this exercise is to demonstrate the ability of the U.S., along with our allies and partners to respond decisively to any threat in any direction,” said U.S. Special Operations Command Europe Commander, Maj. Gen. Steven G. Edwards. “Completing this exercise enhances interoperability between forces and demonstrates the capability of our ready and postured special operations forces within the European theater,” he said.

    International cooperation is vital to European security, and exercises like Trojan Footprint enable partnerships on a broad scale, explained Darek Coker, a civilian senior exercise planner at SOCEUR and the lead planner for Trojan Footprint.

    “What we look to do is to deploy U.S. forces into Europe and stand up a coalition of the willing, pre-conflict,” he said. “We try to set resistance and stand-up resilience before conflict actually happens.”

    Coker explained that deploying special operations forces prior to combat is a key component in the SOF mission and building resistance and resilience in nations prior to conflict acts as a galvanizing measure to promote peace, stability, and ultimately security in Europe through shared readiness, seamless integration, and building a posture of readiness across the continent.

    Forces from Albania, Bulgaria, France, Georgia, Greece, Italy, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Portugal, Romania, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States participated in the exercise which lasted for two weeks.

    “I’ve been very pleased with the participation,” said Coker. “Now the exercise has a gravitational pull. I get solicited by countries, who seemingly have no affiliation to the region, such as Columbia, and various African countries who now ask to participate,” he said. “A lot of countries want to come in and train with NATO forces to NATO standards. We train under NATO standards because we want to prepare to fight under NATO authority as a NATO force,” he continued.

    Coker explained that while Trojan Footprint is a U.S. led exercise, this year each respective country has been in the lead for training objectives in their region.

    “This year we’ve put our allies and partners first,” he said. “Georgia is in the lead in Georgia, Romania is in the lead in Romania. The Greeks are in the lead in the Balkans, and the U.S. is filling a supportive role to ensure success, but we are not out front.”

    Allowing participating nations to fill the lead roles not only assisted with the objective of the exercise, but it fortified security in eastern Europe, while building relationships that will benefit both the U.S. and partner nations for years to come.

    “Trojan Footprint was a very positive dynamic for us within the special operations field,” said Georgian Lt. Col. Dimitri Demetraidze, operations planner for the Georgian Defence Forces during the exercise.

    “This time we were able to combine kinetic actions with operational planning.”

    Georgian participation had a major impact on Trojan Footprint, despite the fact that they are not a member of NATO. Over 1,700 troops, both Georgian and partner nations, were mobilized and conducted training within Georgian boundaries during Trojan Footprint 2024. “We are dedicated to the safety and security in our region,” said Demetraidze.

    While host nations had the opportunity to lead objectives within their boundaries, other participating nations were able to build interoperability on a broad spectrum of objectives.

    “It’s important for us to learn how others operate on a day-by-day basis,” said Sgt. Maj. Stefano Stainer, a liaison officer for Italian Special Operations forces. “Working in a joint staff is always an opportunity to improve.”

    Stainer explained that communication was a challenge initially, but through working together it was overcome.

    ”For sure the communication was a big milestone,” he said. “Not just speaking, but even using the same systems. To be a part of NATO means to be part of a 32-nation team and we have to be on the same page.”

    Getting on the same page means building cohesion between NATO Allies, partner nations, and all participants to deter threats and secure a large portion of the world, explained Lt. Col. Erik Sarson, the chief of staff for the exercise.

    “This is important based on the current situation in Europe. Looking back to 2008, and looking at Russian aggression, the European landscape has changed a lot,” said Sarson.

    He mentioned that progression of participating nations has increased exponentially over the last decade.

    “I’ve been involved with this theater since 2014,” he said. “I’ve seen a tremendous improvement on the ability to integrate with partners, both on the U.S. side and on partner nations.”

    In 2024, Trojan Footprint falls under the umbrella of NATO’s Steadfast Defender, which is part of U.S. Department of Defense’s Large Scale Global Exercise 24, an all-domain exercise series that executes a range of joint multinational military activities and operations. LSGE 24 is designed to demonstrate the robust global presence of NATO Allies and partners, as well as the cohesion of our enduring global partnerships. Coker said enduring cohesion and partnerships is the ultimate objective for Trojan Footprint.

    “That, I think, is the future of this exercise; Allies and partners take the lead in their own countries while we participate,” he said.

    “I think we sent a powerful strategic message by having this exercise in the Black Sea and the Balkans. It shows that we are here to support our Allies and partners. We are on the lookout for any tricks our adversary might try to pull,” added Coker.

    As explained by Maj. Gen. Edwards, solidarity between NATO Allies and partner nations in Europe is the overarching goal for Trojan Footprint. The aim of partnerships is to ensure that European nations, along with allies and partners, are not just waiting for the fight. They are in position, ready, working together, and poised to meet any challenge presented to promote peace, security, and stability in the European theater.
    For more information on Trojan Footprint, visit



    Date Taken: 04.09.2024
    Date Posted: 04.09.2024 03:55
    Story ID: 468092
    Location: DE

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