The snow falls silently as Soldiers lace up their boots in the early hours and darkness of the morning. The Soldiers prepare for a long day of training in the snow and freezing temperatures of Latvia, as they work alongside allied nations. Soldiers with 3rd Battalion, 66th Armored Regiment (3-66), 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team (1ABCT), 1st Infantry Division (1ID) participated in Winter Shield 2021, a multinational combined forces exercise that integrates forces from different allied nations and increases the lethality of militaries. The exercise began Nov. 22, 2021, and concluded Dec. 5, 2021.
Latvia provided a great training environment and allowed for soldiers from countries with a warmer climate to step out of their comfort zones and get more experience in snowy, colder conditions. Winter Shield highlighted capabilities of the joint forces. Soldiers had to remain flexible as they were integrated into different training exercises, including demolition, infantry, armored vehicles, mortar support, bridge laying and signal support. Through precise and coordinated planning, allied nations performed together like a well-oiled machine without hesitation.
Growcock shared how he was proud to see his Soldiers work alongside the Spanish Armed Forces and expand their knowledge and skills in the training domain. His unit, while attached to the 3-66, began the exercise with a boom. They conducted abatis tree demolitions and Bangalore explosive breach training with the Spanish Armed Forces. The 1BEB and Spanish Armed Forces shared their demolition tactics and incorporated them into the training exercises.
In addition to the abatis training, 1BEB Soldiers provided an obstacle clearing breach explosive known as a Mine-Clearing Line-Charge, a rocket-guided line of explosives that deploys over 1,700 pounds of C4 to clear obstacles and provide a path for soldiers to advance forward.
Once the 1BEB cleared the obstacle, Soldiers with the 3-66 and Latvian Land Forces advanced through the objective and reacted to simulated enemy contact. Infantrymen conducted dismounted operations with the M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle (Bradley) and engaged enemy troops. The 3-66 conducted integrated company live-fires during day and night. M1 Abrams tanks and Bradleys moved down the range alongside each other, engaging enemies along the way. Once at the end of the lane, infantrymen dismounted from the Bradleys and set up defensive fighting positions. The final day of training was a combined arms live-fire demonstration, which encompassed elements from the 3-66 and units from allied nations that operated side-by-side to complete an objective and showcased the cohesion between nations.
Winter Shield 2021 concluded with a closing ceremony, where Latvian Land Forces Mechanized Infantry Brigade Commander Col. Sandris Gaugers delivered awards and recognized outstanding Soldiers for their performances during Winter Shield 2021.