Moderator:  Good afternoon from the U.S. State Department’s Brussels Media Hub.  I’d like to welcome all participants to today’s telephonic press briefing on exercise Fires Shock.  Today we are very pleased to be joined by three speakers: Brigadier General Christopher Norrie and Colonel Daniel George Miller from the U.S. Army, as well as Major General Indrek Sirel from the Estonian Defence Forces.

We will begin today’s call with opening remarks from the speakers and then we will turn it over to your questions.  We will do our best to get to as many as possible in the time that we have today, which is approximately 30 minutes.

As a reminder, today’s call is on the record.  And with that, I will turn it over to Brigadier General Norrie for his opening remarks.  Please go ahead.

Brigadier General Norrie:  Good afternoon.  I’m Brigadier General Chris Norrie, the Commander of 7th Army Training Command, and I just want to start by saying that on behalf of U.S. Army Europe and Africa, we can’t thank you enough for taking the time from your schedules to speak with Major General Sirel, Colonel Miller, and me this afternoon, and thank you to Justin and our colleagues in Brussels for hosting this event.

I’m on this call today from our training center in Bavaria, Germany, after returning from Tapa, Estonia, last night, where I reviewed the preparations made by Major General Sirel’s forces, Colonel Miller’s soldiers, and our own trainers and exercise control from 7th Army Training Command.  There has been a lot of hard work and planning to make sure that tonight’s multiple-launch rocket system live fire, tomorrow’s joint forcible entry from the 82nd Airborne Division, and the rest of Swift Response 21 and DEFENDER-Europe 21 is a quality training event for all of our U.S., allied, and partner nation participants.  That makes us a stronger Alliance and a more ready combined force.

To pull out to a macro level, U.S. Army Europe and Africa, along with our partners, has already started DEFENDER-Europe 21.  Similar to DEFENDER-Europe 20, DEFENDER is the overarching exercise that gets all of our pieces moving, from paratroopers to equipment from the Continental United States as well as our Allies and partners here in Europe.  Over 1,300 pieces of equipment loaded on boats in March and arrived at ports in Albania, Croatia, Germany, and Greece.  This year’s DEFENDER-Europe involves over 30,000 participants from 25 countries conducting a series of associated exercises that take place in training areas in 13 countries.

DEFENDER essentially sets the theater and exercises our ability to conduct military movement across Europe, both as the U.S. Army and with our NATO Allies and partners.  We’ve demonstrated over the last 15 months that we can continue to exercise and train during this pandemic by implementing measures to protect our soldiers and host communities, and we’ll continue that throughout this summer.

So here in Estonia, we’re kicking off one of those associated exercises, Swift Response 21.  Historically, this has been one of our premier airborne exercises, and this year is no different.  In the next 24 hours you’re going to have the 3rd Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division load up on aircraft at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and jump out into the night to link up with our Estonian Allies.  On the ground, they’ll meet a determined opposing force played by U.S. and allied forces.  Our Europe-based paratroopers from the hundred and seventy – the 173rd, I’m sorry, Airborne Brigade will also jump this week from a staging base in Papa, Hungary, into Bulgaria, where they’ll then conduct raids and other missions with helicopters from the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade.  In total, there’s over 7,000 soldiers from 11 countries taking part in Swift Response.

So then, what is Fires Shock?  As we look across these and other exercises this summer, we saw an opportunity to exercise and showcase the modernization of our artillery capabilities within U.S. Army Europe and Africa in support of our NATO Allies and aligned with our National Defense Strategy.  The Army’s number one modernization priority is long-range precision fires, and that will be on full display here in Estonia.  Starting tonight in Estonia, the 41st Field Artillery Brigade will demonstrate our ability to provide rapid, scalable, precision-strike long-range artillery anywhere in Europe and Africa.  In the next month they’ll go straight from Estonia into a tactical artillery interoperability exercise alongside 13 other nations back at Grafenwoehr for artillery live fires during exercise Dynamic Front.

In the last six months, the 41st Fires Brigade has conducted no-notice exercises to deploy via U.S. Special Operations Command Europe aircraft, land in Romania to fire rockets into the Black Sea, and then roll right back onto the aircraft and they’re home by nightfall.  We’re going to demonstrate that ability again during Fires Shock at exercise Saber Guardian in Bulgaria this month, and again on the African continent in June as part of exercise African Lion.  In the same timeframe, 41st will also deploy elements to Norway to conduct an MLRS live fire in a bilateral exercise called Thunderbolt.

In terms of what we’re doing tonight in Estonia, to win any conflict you will inevitably have to occupy terrain with ground forces, but getting them there on the modern battlefield with so many weapons that provide standoff means you’ve got to integrate joint fires from the strategic and operational level, and you want to give those paratroopers every opportunity to arrive to jump, fight, and win.  Our long-range fires enterprise is an example of U.S. Army Europe and Africa’s credible land deterrence in support of the U.S. European Command.

Lastly, it’s significant and not by coincidence that the first combat training portions of all of these exercises are taking place here in Estonia alongside one of our most steadfast allies.  A lot of the focus of our DEFENDER exercises this summer will take place in the Black Sea and Balkans regions, indeed, even part of Swift Response.  But the fact that we’re going to be exercising tonight from the high north to Estonia to Morocco over the next month should give a sense of scope for these exercises.  We’re truly exercising the theater this summer, and we’re doing it alongside some of our best allies, like Estonia.

I look forward to your questions and I hope that you’re able to come see some of the events that make up these exercises.  Again, thank you so much for your time.

Moderator:  Thank you for those remarks.  We’ll now turn to Major General Sirel for his opening remarks.  Please go ahead.

Major General Sirel:  Good afternoon from Tapa as well, as well already introduced.  I’m Major General Indrek Sirel.  I’m Deputy Chief of Defence in the Estonian Defence Forces, and in that exercise capacity I’m the Estonian call director of – director for the Estonian portion on that one.  And thank you for the interest that you have shown to joining this press conference.

Let me underline that for us nations that are conducting that exercise, it’s one of the opportunities to demonstrate our openness on what we are doing and why we are doing it.

Let me turn to [inaudible] Estonian points.  So the Estonians are very proud to be one of the many host countries for the overarching exercise DEFENDER-Europe and also Swift Response this year, and as well we are – we can say this – we are proud that long-range precision fire that will be conducted in Estonia as of today is basically one of the first training items for the exercise DEFENDER-Europe and Swift Response.

Let me also remind that it’s actually not the first time for the 41st Field Artillery Brigade to conduct live fires in Estonia.  And just in the last August, we participated in MLRS fires for the first time here, and it seems that the exercise itself was so successful and worked for both tactical, operational, strategic level so that we are extremely happy to be fortunate where exercises were involved.

For Estonia, participating in the DEFENDER-Europe and its portions with Swift Response is just one of many exercises where we, the Estonian Defence Forces, train to defend our country, and doing that one in shoulder by shoulder with our Allies so that it’s just as well – as a reminder, it’s not only the U.S. forces that will be participating in that exercise.  The airdrops that Brigadier General Norrie just mentioned will have not just paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division but as well paratroopers from the 16th UK Air Assault Brigade.  And of course, to remind that among the forces that will be participating in the exercise Swift Response, we’ll as well be having NATO transport presence units from United Kingdom and France that are stationed here for a deterrence mission.

As well, I will underline that the next few days, a significant number of Estonian infantrymen, airmen, special forces operators, reservists, and conscripts are actively involved in Swift Response.  Again, just to underline that among the active duty soldiers we’ll have a number of reservists and volunteers training side by side with our Allies, and that is an important portion for what we are doing.

And let me as well underline that exercise definitely is a strengthening bond and relationship with United States as a whole, but most importantly with United States Army, Army in Europe, and capabilities and forces that are deployed to Estonia are very welcome here and [inaudible] exactly can train the things that is related to our defense plans.  And I will be echo of Brigadier General Norrie that as well we’re very satisfied that despite COVID restrictions and quarantines and everything that is coming around that one, the long planning of this exercise seems to be now delivering and exercise elements will take place.  So that – and I will say that that is a clear evidence that cooperation that we have been building up from the previous years will survive Zoom meetings and long-distance planning so that – and really looking forward for the exercise here in Estonia, but as well looking forward how it will further open up in other parts of Europe, and just to mention that Estonia will be – from the Swift Response will be continuing with its largest national exercise, Spring Storm, that will be commenced just a week after Swift Response will be finalized here.

That concludes my opening remarks.

Colonel Miller:  Hello, I’m Colonel Daniel Miller.  I am the Commander of the 41st Field Artillery Brigade, and I’d like to thank everyone for joining us.  41st Field Artillery Brigade is the U.S. Army’s only organic, long-range, precision strike multiple launcher rocket system unit forward stationed in Europe.  And we will be the action arm of the U.S. Army Europe and Africa’s Fires Shock campaign of exercises to demonstrate long range precision fires capability through our conduct of interoperability-focused, tactical-level exercises and live fire events.  As mentioned, five countries across two continents, from the Baltics to the Black Sea and from the Artic Circle to North Africa, over the next six to eight weeks.

Less than nine months ago, in September of 2020, the 41st Field Artillery Brigade conducted its first live fire exercise outside our home base in Germany, and it was right here in Tapa, Estonia.  We are very proud to return to Estonia to kick off our series of long-range precision fire missions called Fires Shock alongside our Estonian allies and partners and NATO’s enhanced forward presence, Battle Group Estonia.  Our Estonian allies and hosts have been tremendously helpful, and it’s a privilege to serve alongside such professional and capable allies.  And I’d like to take this opportunity to publicly thank Major General Sirel for both their hospitality and their continued partnership.

Tonight’s live fire exercise in support of Swift Response is a tremendous opportunity to coordinate and work with joint special forces teams from the U.S. and Estonia, firing alongside our UK artillery group that is part of NATO’s enhanced forward presence battle group here to set the conditions for 82nd Airborne’s follow-on joint forcible entry operation.  It’s a very tremendous amount of artillery.  Cooperation and interoperability being demonstrated here with precision, timeliness, and considerable effect.  We are very excited to be doing it.

Following completion of this exercise, we will return back to our home station of Grafenwoehr, Germany, and continue on with Dynamic Front and then the succession of follow-on exercises as part of Fires Shock.  Needless to say, our soldiers will be very busy for the next month and a half demonstrating their ability to provide support in a wide variety of capabilities alongside our partners and Allies.  It’s important to note that we could not do any of this without the support of our Allies and partners, whether it’s here in Europe or off the continent.  The fact that we are continuing to do these exercises across Europe and Africa during today’s continuing, ongoing COVID environment is a true testament to the commitment that we have with our friends around the world, like we have here in Estonia, for everyone’s continued mutual benefit and the security of everyone.

This concludes my opening remarks.

Moderator:  Thank you very much for those opening remarks.  We’ll now begin the question answer portion of today’s call.

To start, I’m going to read a question that was submitted to us in advance.  This is from Dmytro Shkurko with the National News Agency of Ukraine, and his question is:  “The area of the exercise is spread throughout Europe and Africa.  Are you going to involve partner nations in Fires Shock such as Ukraine, which remains a hot spot after the Russian military build-up on the border?  What kind of defense cooperation framework from DEFENDER-Europe 2021 could be developed between the Baltic States, Poland, and Ukraine?”

Brigadier General Norrie:  This is Brigadier General Norrie.  I’ll start, and then I’ll turn it over to Colonel Miller.  But broadly, DEFENDER-Europe 21 and the other regularly occurring linked exercises are U.S.-led exercises designed to build the readiness and interoperability of U.S., Allies’ and partner forces.  In that sense, we routinely work together to refine our own systems and processes and to work for repetitions in which we can immerse in a competitive training environment and further increase our own readiness and then also strengthen the bonds and the friendships of this tremendous alliance.

But I’ll turn it over to Dan Miller because we do have a specific fires interoperability exercise ongoing right now at Grafenwoehr.  Dan, you’re next.

Colonel Miller:  Thank you, sir.  As part of the Fires Shock campaign, one of our centerpieces is an exercise called Dynamic Front, which this year is being conducted as part of DEFENDER at Grafenwoehr Training Area.  As part of Dynamic Front, we will be harnessing the combat power of 1,800 participants from 16 nations across NATO, throughout here in Europe, one of which does include Ukraine participation in that exercise, all coming together to focus on interoperability and working as a cohesive artillery lethal organization.  It’s a tremendously exciting exercise going on where we will really delve into the problems of how do we bring all the nations together to stay focused and responsive and timely with our fires with tremendous effect, and we’re excited to be doing it.  It’s just one of the many great things that we’re doing as part of Fires Shock.

That is all.

 Moderator:  Thank you very much for that.  Our next question to us comes from Paul McLeary with Breaking Defense.  Please go ahead.

 Question:  Hi, thanks for doing this.  I wonder if you could speak a little more about the integration piece for the exercises from Norway down to Southern Europe.  How are the Allies communicating in order to pass data or targets to the HIMARS and the precision systems?

Colonel Miller:  This is Colonel Miller.  I will field that question.  Amongst interoperability it includes three key pillars: a human relationship pillar, working closely with the Allies and partners in building a human relationship with them.  A second pillar is a procedural pillar, working with Allies so that we use the same tactics and techniques – the same basic processes regardless of the systems we use or the languages that we speak, so that we can all stay coordinated because we can trust each other to follow those same processes and procedures.  And these have been standardized since NATO’s inception that we have been working on this procedural interoperability piece.

And then the third pillar is technical interoperability, ensuring today’s modern communication systems and battle command systems operating on computer platforms are able to be talked across networks.  7th Army Training Command has done a tremendous amount of investment in mission-partnered environment and providing a persistent training capability on a network so that all NATO Allies can access and then exercise for training value.  And then there are several other additional programs where we build on this technical interoperability piece to ensure that we can communicate seamlessly.

And one of those examples is the Artillery Systems Compatibility Agreement, known as ASCA, where we actually work to make sure that the systems and networks that we use are allowed to exchange information and use the same digital message formats between nation X and nation Y to ensure that we are actually digitally integrated across the network at a variety of levels to ensure that we can actually provide those lethal fires.  And again, Dynamic Front is a great showcase for both – all those initiatives that we’re talking about to really achieve that technical interoperability while still fostering the human and the procedural interoperability pieces as well.

Question:  Thank you.

Major General Sirel:  And if I may jump to here, Major General Sirel.  From perspective of one of the nations that’s actually exercising that one, I can confirm you what’s said by Major General – Brigadier General Norrie.  So if we’re talking about the target acquisition, so eyes on targets will be done from the combined team where U.S. and Estonian special operators are looking to that one, and so that’s working on their procedure in that portion.

Then if we’re talking about final decision on the – how to open fires and how to conduct that long-range precise strike, so that this is where in the fire coordination center Estonian team is present side by side with the U.S. team, so that at the training we can go through the procedural things, human things, and as well we can test our technical interoperability.

So those elements are exactly what we are training, and this is of great value to Estonia to train that one.  And I already can confirm [inaudible] of exercise – firing exercise by MLRS in last August.  This exercise already built on the success that we had.  We added in new elements, but it’s as a training of what we are doing.  So reinforcing Estonian Defence Forces’ defense plans with the capabilities that we not necessarily possess in our inventory and then training exactly how to use that one if it’s needed for defense of our country and defense of Allies.

End of my comment.

Moderator:  Great.  Thank you very much for that.  Our next question comes to us from Marek Swierczynski with Polityka Insight in Poland.  Please go ahead.

Question:  Thank you very much, and thanks for doing this.  I have a question to General Norrie and General [sic] Miller as well.

You, sir, mentioned about the long-range precision fires being used in the Fires Shock series of exercises, but as far as I understand, this exercise is conducted with the legacy HIMARS equipment.  Correct me if I’m wrong.

And my question to General [sic] Miller:  The Pentagon announced a few weeks ago that a multidomain combat element or task force will be built around the 41st Fires Brigade or with the 41st at its core.  Can you tell us how advanced are you in that process?  Thank you very much.

Brigadier General Norrie:  I really appreciate the question.  This is General Norrie.  Hey, I don’t want to miss an opportunity to highlight that we do have a media day scheduled for Dynamic Front.  It’s on the 19th of May at Grafenwoehr, and you are all welcome and encouraged to participate and to be a part of that.  And our public affairs officer and our team will ensure that everyone has any coordinating instructions available to you if you’d like to attend or participate.

I really appreciate the question.  Our U.S. Army multidomain operations is an operational-level military concept designed to achieve U.S. strategic objectives as outlined in our National Defense Strategy.  U.S. Army Europe and Africa will apply the multidomain operations concept to ensure U.S., allied, and partner nations have an increased advantage against potential adversaries across all domains.  U.S. Army Europe and Africa units continue to modernize in field capabilities that will increase our ability to fight and win as part of a U.S.-led NATO force.  The U.S. Army modernization priority is long-range precision fires.  The success of our sensor-to-shooter live fire exercises that General Sirel and Colonel Miller talked about as well highlights the tactical benefit of an integrated sensor-to-shooter capability that can see beyond the line of sight.

These exercises – again, they allow us opportunities to train like we might fight, and we learn every time we work together as part of this very, very important training.  New capabilities will enable multidomain operational forces to engage and defeat time-sensitive targets and provide robust and resilient reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition capabilities that will shorten sensor-to-shooter timelines for long-range precision fires.  So this is an important opportunity, and we deeply appreciate our Estonian partners and friends for investing in this training in an exceptionally capable training environment here.  This is not about the age of any individual system or piece of equipment.  It’s much more about how we use those capabilities together, and this is an invaluable opportunity for us to practice that.  So we’re so grateful to General Sirel and the Estonian Defence Forces.  We’re so grateful to all of the people participating as part of this incredibly important exercise, and I deeply, deeply appreciate the readiness that we all gain from opportunities to train and learn together.

So I’ll pause there and I’ll turn it over to Colonel Miller for any of your thoughts or feedback.  Over.

Colonel Miller:  We are very excited to assist a multidomain task force in Europe with standing up and leveraging those capabilities across the domains.  It is a revolutionary step forward in the way that we think about the battlefield and how we engage across multiple domains simultaneously for great effect.

I’d like to echo what Brigadier General Norrie mentioned.  It is not about necessarily the age of a given system.  Modernization of our long-range precision fires continues to go on with new capabilities across platforms and munitions.  But that sensor integration of how they’re being used in conjunction is what the multidomain task force will really bring and achieve here in Europe as well as the creation of the additional theater-level fires command that will continue to help integrate at the operational level across all our NATO Allies and partners should we have to deploy these capabilities in a combat environment.

That concludes my comments.

Moderator:  Great.  Thank you very much for that.  Our next comes to us from Abraham Mahshie with the Washington Examiner.  Please go ahead.

Question:  Yeah, thank you so much for doing this.  I wonder if you can describe what does this type of exercise and the whole spectrum of DEFENDER exercises show adversaries like Russia?  And also, why the Balkans and Black Sea, and how will the exercises test the capacity and the infrastructure that those countries have in the southeast of the NATO Alliance?  Thank you.

Brigadier General Norrie:  This is General Norrie.  I’ll provide some short comments here, and I would defer to Major General Sirel for additional comments or context here.

So the Black Sea is key for maritime and military operations.  The security of NATO’s eastern flank as well as that of sovereign nations in the region is contingent upon our ability to deter potential adversaries.  In the Balkans, U.S. Army Europe/Africa supports security operations aimed at long-term stability in the region while working with our allies and partners to increase the scape, capability, and readiness of their land forces to deter potential adversaries.  Our presence and commitment to the defense of our allies in the Balkan and Black Sea regions are important symbols of assurance and provide deterrence against potential adversaries.

And I’ll turn it over to General Sirel for additional comments.

General Sirel:  Thank you very much, and I will say that this type of exercise actually is a part of that one that – in that exercise we are training how we will defend our country.  So that is definitely part of deterrence, of showing our will, and that we are preparing and improving our skills while we are doing that one.  But most importantly, during this exercise we are training as well of – and showing will and capability of us, as Allies, to quickly send reinforcements [inaudible] effect on the troops.  So actually what is Swift Response, including to the prior [inaudible] exercise so that we do have reinforced by the long-range artillery, we do have reinforced by special operators, and we are ready to take a global response force that can arrive to the scene very quickly, if needed.

So this is a demonstration of us – of Allies’ cohesion, demonstration of our will, and as well as to improving our skills on the all level.  So I will say that that is the end of my comments to that question.

Moderator:  Thank you very much for that response.  Our next question comes to us from Lauri Nurmi with Iltalehti in Finland.  Please go ahead.

Question:  Hi, good afternoon.  This is Lauri Nurmi from Finland.  I would like to ask about the role of Estonia in this exercise.  Is this a signal to someone – for example, Russia – that you are starting from Estonia?  And to Brigadier General Norrie, will the U.S. Army in Europe increase its military presence in the Baltic countries?  Thank you very much.

Major General Sirel:  I will – it’s Major General Sirel here.  So that – I will mention that Estonia is just one of many host countries, so that that’s – I think that you should really not try to any hidden agenda that first opening events will be happening in Estonia.  It’s just a sequence of how the exercises are evolving.  So – but overall, of course, the exercise itself, either Swift Response or DEFENDER larger or our Spring Storm, where we are training as well with Allies, all of them are signals, all of them are deterrence message.  So that much I will say that – but apart of – and maybe I will pass this now to Brigadier General Norrie.

Brigadier General Norrie:  This is General Norrie.  So broadly, DEFENDER-Europe 21, as we discussed earlier, it’s a joint multinational exercise.  As General Sirel highlighted, it involves allied and partner nation forces.  It is not conducted in response to any specific threat or adversary.  This exercise and the other regularly occurring exercises that we conduct, every one of those is designed to build the readiness and our ability to fight together of all of our U.S., Allies’, and partner forces.  Over.

Moderator:  Great.  Thank you very much for that.  Our next question comes to us from Paul Shinkman with U.S. News and World Report.  Please go ahead.

Question:  Hi, thanks for doing the call.  This question is for General Sirel, though I would appreciate any other perspective if you have it.  General, what do you assess President Putin was trying to achieve with his build-up along the border with Ukraine?  How has that affected your involvement in these exercises, either specifically or with the message that it is trying to send?  And have you noticed any increases in Russian aggression against your country in recent days or weeks, either overtly or covertly?

Major General Sirel:  I will start with that one that – try to understand what Mr. Putin’s intention is.  Probably the one guy who can answer that one is Mr. Putin himself.  So that all of that one is [inaudible] you can put – it’s a degree so that – and can address it.

But first of all, as Brigadier General Norrie already said, that that exercise is not built up in response of anything.  And let me as well underline, so the planning of DEFENDER 21 started for more than a year ago.  And we have been – always been very open on – so that that is a defense of our Allies so that this is what we’re training.  We have been sent, I think, overall details on what we’re going to do, where we’re going to do it, and I’m speaking not only about Estonia, but U.S. in general as well.  So I think that that one should also be clear that that exercise is not against anyone or in – not in response of anything.

So with regards of what you just referred of deployed additional forces around Ukraine, that have not done any particular implication to the particular exercise or our portion in exercise Swift Response or DEFENDER-Europe.  So that’s – all the activities, all the training serial are planned to be conducted in the way of the planning process.

And with regards of any specific behavior towards Estonia, at the moment I can’t really say that it’s connected to the exercise as becoming something out of normality.  And again, that is not the first time when we’re conducting exercise, not the first time when we’re conducting exercises with Allies.  Yes, there’s some of the new element so that, yes, of course we expect that as usual happening.  So there will be a reaction in the different formats from Russian Federation, and we’re preparing to deal with them as usual during conduct of such an exercise.

End of my comments.

Brigadier General Norrie:  Yes, and this is General Brigadier General Norrie.  Obviously, I can’t speak at a national level, and I certainly can’t speak or comment on nor would I want to guess intent at a national or an international level.  I can speak specifically here tactically and reference this exercise.

First, broadly, the goal of our training and Army’s training around the world is to ensure that no soldier goes into combat untrained and that no soldier or unit sees something for the first time while they’re in some form of contact.  Given that, we do continue to observe around the world how adversaries, potential adversaries, and others might act, and then we work very hard to create a training environment that is commensurate with what we might expect if we were directed to fight together.  These kinds of exercises are so important.  They are realistic, tough training, and a demanding environment in which we are able to immerse ourselves in a place where we can work on our own ability to work together and to process and to exercise all of our systems here at every echelon.  And this kind of realistic training is so, so important.

As General Sirel indicated, this is not conducted in response to any specific threat or adversary, but it is intended to inform how we structure our own training, our own repetitions, and to ensure that we build the right kind of readiness at every echelon here.  This exercise, as part of DEFENDER-Europe 21, was planned and will be executed in full compliance with all applicable conventional arms control agreements, to include the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty, the Vienna Document 2011 on confidence and security-building measures, and then the Open Skies Treaty.  We have provided appropriate Vienna document notifications in November 2020 to all 57 participating states within the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and that includes the Russian Federation.  Host nations may invite representatives from OSCE participating states to observe this exercise and confirm, but all of that depends on host nation decisions.

So we’re working very hard to be very transparent.  This is a tremendous opportunity for us to train together in a realistic environment, and in an environment that’s commensurate with what we might expect as we observe around the world.  Over.

Moderator:  Thank you very much.  It looks like we have time for maybe two more questions.  Our first – the first will go to Thomas Nehls with ARD-Radio in Germany.  Please go ahead.

Question:  Yes, hello.  Gentlemen, I just learned that there is a sense – a preventative sense of military exercises, but going along the title DEFENDER-Europe 21, I ask myself:  Is there any sign of getting attacked in one of your views, gentlemen, so that it is even clearer to have this exercise?  And a little political overview question, if I may, to know better your visions and imaginations of those exercises and all.  Could one of you or maybe all or two imagine that, let’s say, Russians or Chinese do such an exercise in the Gulf of Mexico, let’s say, being assisted by Cuba or Venezuela or some other American countries?

Brigadier General Norrie:  This is General Norrie.  I can’t comment on that.  And I would defer those kinds of questions to our State Department or to our higher-level headquarters.  At our level, we’re very focused on, again, the tactical interoperability and then the opportunity for repetitions.  This is – these kinds of operations, they require planning and practice well in advance of any possible point of crisis.  We all must be ready to deploy, fight, and win decisively against any near-peer adversary in a joint multidomain, high-intensity conflict.

Our objectives for DEFENDER-Europe 21 include units drawing Army preposition stock, receiving, staging, moving, and integrating units, commanding and controlling forces, rehearsing contingency options, and then demonstrating our own ability to work together to leverage all of our alliances and partnerships, and then the testing of new equipment and then systems here.  And so through that lens, this is an invaluable opportunity, as General Sirel talked about, for us to work together and to train together and to further build our own readiness and the collective readiness of all of our partners and allies throughout NATO.

And so let me – I’ll turn it over to General Sirel if you’ve got any additional comments.

Major General Sirel:  A little bit as well, I’ll probably try to put some thoughts together.  So that first of all, I would say that in this exercise we really exercise our inherent right for defending our countries.  And as we decide that one as part of an alliance, so that’d be NATO or larger with some other partners, so this is what we’re doing.  So that – and for also the discussions of the potential of armed conflict, so that I think it’s a – it’s really opening the much wider discussions than just something from that exercise topic here, but I will underline: defend the country together with Allies, this is how we have been defining that one by the plans.

End of comment.

Moderator:  Great.  Thank you very much.  Thank you very much.  And then our final question of the day goes to John Vandiver with Stars and Stripes.  Please go ahead.

Question:  Yeah, thanks for taking the question.  Yeah, for General Norrie, regarding these long-range fires capabilities, I mean, they’re still pretty new in Europe for the Army – only been here a couple years.  Maybe just kind of big picture, could you explain how that’s changed what the Army is able to do here and why it matters?

Brigadier General Norrie:  I really, really appreciate the question.  We all – U.S. Army Europe and Africa, we continue to modernize and then we’re focused on adapting our training environments to meet our current and projected, or what we perceive at least as projected operational threats.  And the integration of long-range precision fires as a system that may act – a critical part of acting in the current environment and how we project it is absolutely invaluable to our entire team.  The integration of these systems allows us to best understand how to position sensors and then to test the entire sensor-to-shooter linkage, not only tactically but also at echelon.

We continue to create environments here and it gives us a tremendous amount of options.  Today and tonight and throughout all of Europe, U.S. Army Europe and Africa, practicing those options, learning in an inquisitive way how to best exercise those options together.  This is really the point of all of this training.  The things that we learn not only today in training, but how those lessons inform future training and how we might work together is absolutely really, really important here as part of this training, and then all of the training that we continue to do.

And so let me just pause there and I’ll just add here – I’m sorry, just to kind of close that thought out.  You’ve got to practice this and you’ve got to practice it in a routine and recurring way, and this – it’s critical to us to routinely exercise Army and joint fires integrations with our allies.  That strengthens our ability to work together.  It strengthens the abilities of our Allies and partners to effectively call for precision long-range fires from multiple sensors.

These opportunities to exercise are very, very important and we recognize that we risk best understanding how to best employ and use without the opportunities afforded here by Estonia as part of this exercise, and then throughout Europe as part of DEFENDER-Europe/Africa 21, the ability to effectively and efficiently employ all of these systems and processes.

So I really appreciate it.  I do want to just highlight one more time how thankful and grateful we are to Estonia for this tremendous repetition, their exceptionally capable training environment, and all of the friendships and partnerships that we have built together over the last few years and that we continue to strengthen through these demanding, tough, and realistic training events.

So let me turn it over to General Sirel for any comments, sir, that you may have.  And then I also think that Dan Miller, he might have some good, substantive feedback on that great question.

General Sirel, to you, sir.  Over.

Major General Sirel:  I would first of all say that thank you for those comments, and I think that those are most of all going to the officers, NCOs, and employees who have been working very hard to make sure that – soldiers who have been working very hard to make sure that we are able to conduct that exercise.  And as well, I will take that opportunity and say that —

Moderator:  Thank our speakers for joining – oh, I’m sorry.  Unfortunately, I got disconnected there.  For our three speakers, do you have any closing remarks, starting with Brigadier General Norrie?

Brigadier General Norrie:  Again, I just want to say how thankful we are for an opportunity to participate in this, and just how grateful I personally am for your investment this afternoon.  We deeply appreciate the opportunity to engage and to share and to remain transparent as we continue with all of these very human endeavors together, focused on building our own readiness, our own capability, and then strengthening all of our partnerships and alliances throughout Europe.

I also, again, just want to thank and express our deepest appreciation for Estonia, for your leadership, and this Fires Shock, this tremendous training opportunity, and for everyone on the net.  We are open.  If you have any questions or concerns or if you’d like to follow up or if you’d like to observe training, we are always available here.  We’re deeply grateful for an opportunity to – opportunity, I’m sorry, to engage and we’re always looking for opportunities to share the tremendous stories of these armies and these units fighting together, learning together, sharing sacrifice together, and building – further building our own readiness, our partnerships, and strengthening our alliances together.

U.S. Army Europe/Africa’s motto is “Stronger Together.”  We are stronger together as we conduct these exercises, and we are indeed stronger together through this venue that you’ve allowed us the opportunity to participate in, and we’re so grateful.  And I hope every one of you has a great rest of the day, a wonderful afternoon, and a great week.  And again, I can’t thank you enough for the opportunity to participate.

So, General Sirel, I’ll turn it over to you for your comments, sir.

Major General Sirel:  Thank you.  And if we are to exercise, defend our Allies, alliance, I’m really looking for those opportunities that that exercise brings to Estonian Defence Forces, but for all the participants, because, again, we are learning, all of us.  And I will as well say that thanks for the United States Army Europe showing that commitment to our alliance, and that – I think that is very important.  And I’ll just say also that to take all the opportunity to witness exercise fires, it will be – have the opportunity to write a great story of what’s going on.

Thank you.  Thank you for your time and interest.

Moderator:  Thank you very much.  And Colonel Miller, any closing remarks?

Colonel Miller:  Like our previous two speakers, again, thank you to all our media partners for contributing their time this afternoon and engaging us with some great dialogue and some great questions.  Thanks again to our Estonian hosts.  We are very excited to kick off the DEFENDER series and the Fires Shock campaign with a literal bang this evening.  There are going to be some great images and video of these events and the ongoing events, so they’ll be posted on the Defense Visual Imagery Data System under DEFENDER-Europe and U.S. Army Europe and Africa’s DVIDS pages.  So please check them out, and hopefully we see you again on the ground at one of our great exercises, like Dynamic Front or African Lion, as we continue to demonstrate these capabilities and what we can achieve with them with our Allies and partners.  Thank you.

Moderator:  Great.  I’d like to thank all three of our speakers for joining us today and thank all of the reporters on the line for your participation and for your questions.

U.S. Department of State

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