TAPA TRAINING BASE --
More than 200 NATO service members gathered at Tapa Training
Base, Estonia, for the closing ceremony of Saber Strike 16 June 21.
U.S. service members were only one component of the
large-scale theater security-cooperation exercise that began June 12.
Participating nations included Estonia, Latvia and
Lithuania, as well as Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Norway,
Poland, Slovenia, United Kingdom and the U.S.
The exercise was held in multiple locations throughout
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, facilitated cooperation among NATO allies and
improved joint-operational capability across a range of missions to prepare the
13 participating nations to support multinational-contingency operations around
During the ceremony, leaders spoke about the efforts put
forth by all who participated and thanked one another for the unified
partnership that made the exercise a success.
“It is great to see all of you service members from so many
different nations,” said Taavi Roivas, Estonian prime minister. “It is also
great to see that all of our nations are working together as one and that Saber
Strike 16 was a great success.”
U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Blake Ortner, 29th Infantry Division
commander and SbS 16 co-exercise
director, shared his thoughts on the events.
“The most important thing that’s built during these
exercises are the trusted relationships,” said Ortner. “You can’t schedule,
plan or order that. Those trusted relationships are what make us truly strong
as an alliance and also as a bilateral team with whatever nation we are working
SbS16 also featured the integration of U.S. close-air
support with allied and partner-nation ground forces and testing of U.S. air
and naval deployment of forces and equipment.
“The most impressive part of the exercise was the integration
of the B-52 strategic bomber in a close-air support role as well as the A-10s
that were used in as well as live fires,” said
Ortner. “For the first time in 32 years the A-10s did an austere landing along
a highway, here in Estonia.”
SbS 16 went off without a hitch because of the hard work of
partnered nations that sometimes endured obstacles to accomplish the mission.
“Shared sacrifice has a benefit all of its own,” said
Ortner. “When you have [servicemembers] out there living together, sweating,
stressed out, getting rained on]and living through those conditions, real unity
and trust are built.”
Exercise Saber Strike is just one way the U.S.
and allies improve the relationships built over the past 70 years, and continues
to provide strategic access critical to meet the NATO commitment to respond to
threats against allies and partners.