Va. Guard infantry Soldiers train in Denmark

Capt. Kevin Hoffman, commander of Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Virginia Army National Guard and Sgt, First Class Denver Claywell review operations with a British brigadier general during Viking Star training exercise Sept. 22, 2014, in Denmark. Viking Star was a two-week multinational force training exercise with United States National Guardsmen, British Army reservists, and Danish Home Guard personnel. (Courtesy photo)

Capt. Kevin Hoffman, commander of Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Virginia Army National Guard and Sgt, First Class Denver Claywell review operations with a British brigadier general during Viking Star training exercise Sept. 22, 2014, in Denmark. Viking Star was a two-week multinational force training exercise with United States National Guardsmen, British Army reservists, and Danish Home Guard personnel. (Courtesy photo)

STAUNTON, Va. — Thirteen Soldiers of the Virginia National Guard’s 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team participated in Exercise Viking Star, a multinational force training exercise conducted Sept. 13-28, 2014, in Denmark. The exercise involved fellow NATO forces from both Denmark and Britain and occurred at a military base on Denmark’s western coast.

National Guard Soldiers operated under tactical control of the British Newcastle-based Queen’s Own Yeomanry Regiment. The QOY is a light-armored reconnaissance unit of approximately 500 Soldiers who moved with all of their equipment to Denmark to conduct annual training and validate their regiment’s training objectives. Danish active duty military personnel provided logistical support while volunteers from the Danish Home Guard served side by side with Virginia Army National Guard Soldiers.

The initial training phase focused on force integration and preparation as the three countries’ Soldiers learned to work together. NATO’s common framework proved beneficial as force integration occurred quickly. Before conducting combined forces missions, the integrated troops were able to get in sync with one another’s operational styles. They trained with nonlethal training ammunition and conducted exercises on military operations in urban terrain. This phase also included training on tracking, first aid, and Krav Maga, an Israeli combatives form adopted by many NATO forces.

The exercise then moved to the field where the QOY conducted their doctrinal reconnaissance task. The QOY would then conduct tactical field link-ups with the multi-national forces led by Capt. Kevin Hoffman of the Winchester-based 3rd Battalion, 116th IBCT. These real-time reconnaissance updates and debriefs formed the basis of assault plans which the Americans and their NATO allies carried through on the spot.

The Western coast of Denmark contains numerous bunkers built by invading Nazi forces during the World War II. These bunkers often served as targets throughout the exercise. Additional missions included ambush establishment, high value target acquisition and capture, and hostage rescue. At one point the American forces moved tactically through enemy territory searching for a downed aircraft crew while they were being hunted by enemy dog teams.

“While conducting missions in the field we were plussed up with personnel from both armies,” said Sgt. 1st Class Denver Claywell, an infantryman with 3rd Battalion. “At one point we had three squads of Americans, one squad of British and three squads of Danish integrated into our element. It was a really great experience, a true multinational force integrated and conducting combat operations in a training environment.”

The trip also served as a valuable cultural exchange. Danish leaders accompanied their American guests as they visited Ribe, the oldest city in Denmark, and the site of a historical Viking village. The group then visited the Danish Officer Academy located in Copenhagen and concluded the visit with a tour of the historic Carlsberg brewery.

“The greatest take-away for me was just the experience of integrating other foreign army personnel in with our ranks and being able to conduct combat operations in that training environment,” said Claywell. “The entire trip was very enjoyable. Both Danish and British unit personnel were very professional.”