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Vermont Guard Soldiers Return from NATO Exercise in Europe

Approximately 50 Vermont Army National Guard Soldiers returned from Slovenia June 3 after participating in NATO’s Exercise Immediate Response.

The Soldiers from 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Mountain) spent two weeks in Europe contributing to the second of three connected exercises making up the larger DEFENDER 23 operation.

“We’re the Army’s premier Mountain Infantry Brigade Combat Team, so the chance to operate in a true mountainous environment in the Alps and hone our skills while showcasing what we’re capable of is a great opportunity. The Soldiers who went over there did a fantastic job,” said U.S. Army Col. Leonard Poirier, commander, 86th IBCT (MTN). “This was a reasonably short exercise lasting only a couple of weeks, but very high payoff for that short amount of time to operate in a unique and challenging environment.”

Throughout the two weeks, Vermont Soldiers worked with allies and partners at the NATO Mountain Warfare Center of Excellence. They focused on field training exercises such as reconnaissance, ambush and disruption operations while using rope bridges and rappelling to navigate complex terrain.

“I joined the Vermont National Guard last month and was able to join this mission to Slovenia. It was absolutely outstanding, a pretty incredible first experience with the National Guard,” said U.S. Army Spc. Michael Bogt, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 172nd Infantry Regiment. “I’m a former Marine and I don’t regret coming to the Army. There is a ton of opportunity that prior service and people initially joining can take advantage of, so I highly recommend it. So come to Vermont, join the Mountain Brigade, join the scouts or be a sniper if you think you’ve got what it takes.”

Immediate Response took place in Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Slovenia and included approximately 2,800 U.S. and 7,000 multinational participants. 

The readiness of U.S. forces across all domains is critical to building partnerships, responding to crises, providing deterrence, and supporting allies and partners.

Through the Department of Defense National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program, the Vermont National Guard has worked with North Macedonia for 30 years, dating back to the program’s inception in 1993. Vermont also partners with Senegal (2008) and Austria (2022).

Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 157th Infantry Regiment, 86th IBCT (MTN) from the Colorado Army National Guard also participated in Exercise Immediate Response with host nation Slovenia, Colorado’s state partner since 1994.

“The mountains are a mirror, and they show you all your problems. This was a chance to practice collective tasks in that environment,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col Adam Cole, commander, 1-157th IN (MTN). “We’re limited in what we can do in Colorado, so for Slovenia to allow us to train more extensively than we have in the past is a huge step in the right direction.”

Dynamic Employment of Forces to Europe for NATO Deterrence and Enhanced Readiness 2023 (DEFENDER 23), is a multinational joint exercise designed to build readiness and interoperability between U.S. and NATO allies and partners. The exercise demonstrates the U.S. military’s ability to deploy combat-credible troops and equipment to the European theater rapidly. This assurance of commitment to U.S. allies deters those who would threaten the peace of Europe. 

VTARNG Soldiers from the 86th IBCT (MTN) formed a composite platoon for the exercise, representing units from the 1st Squadron, 172nd Cavalry Regiment, 572nd Brigade Engineer Battalion and the 3rd Battalion, 172nd Infantry Regiment.

Source: National Guard

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