Looking from a broader perspective, "Saber Strike 2017" has been much more than the culmination of a series of demanding exercises designed to test and certify Headquarters Multinational Corps Northeast. The effort that has been made at the Baltic Barracks for the past several months fits in with NATO's policy to adjust its posture to the changing realities of regional and global security. For this reason, the Alliance has implemented the biggest reinforcement of its collective defence in a generation. This is where the role of Headquarters Multinational Corps Northeast comes to the fore. "We have prepared ourselves to be on permanent stand-by and monitor the security situation in the region 24/7." – Brigadier General Krzysztof Król, the Corps' Deputy Commander and Exercise Director, puts it briefly.
"Saber Strike 2017" has been a crucial exercise for the Corps to transform into a fully capable High-Readiness Force Headquarters and take the lead in combat operations across the northeastern flank of NATO as a Land Component Command. Thus, it is prepared to not only command and control multiple divisions in the most challenging environment of high-intensity warfare but also design, orchestrate and coordinate land operations within a joint operations area. Putting it in a historical perspective, the very eastern flank of NATO, a territory which was under the Soviet influence less than only 30 years ago, is now watched over by a rapidly deployable Corps that operates at various levels to advance the primary aim of the Alliance – protecting peace and guaranteeing the security of its members in the East.
Given the complexity and interrelatedness of the exercise, it is needless to say that it was not a one-day event. In fact, the whole process took a year and a half. A significant focus of "Saber Strike 2017" was put on the Combat Readiness Evaluation (CREVAL) conducted by Allied Land Command (LANDCOM). To illustrate the amount of work done both by the evaluators and the Corps' staff, let us just mention that there are as many as 1500 criteria that cover all the functional areas of the Headquarters. And none of them was lost down the path. "We didn't step into this blindly. There's a lot of preparation on the part of the evaluators." – Major Hamilton Ashworth, LANDCOM (G7 CREVAL OPS), clarifies. – "We have reviewed all the documentation and policy, which is critical for the integration of the Headquarters into NATO Operations."
Before our staff set themselves up in the Main Command Post, the Crisis Response Planning had been completed. It was the time when hundreds of strings came together in one knot. Such groundwork would be an essential prerequisite if an actual threat was identified. "By setting the scene, you gain more knowledge and a deeper understanding of our region." – Brigadier General Per Orluff Knudsen, the Corps' Chief of Staff, reminded our soldiers repeatedly.
All of these efforts gravitated towards the final phase of "Saber Strike 2017" and were put in full effect in June. Operating out of tents and trailers as every rapidly deployable corps would, our personnel proved their command and control capabilities and fulfilled the most demanding objectives of an Article 5 scenario. "Like everything we've done, it's incremental. Crawl, walk, run!" – Brigadier General Frank Tate, the Corps' Deputy Chief of Staff Operations, illustrates the progress made since the Wales Summit. In the highly-fictionalized scenario of "Saber Strike 2017", an expansionist country has attacked one of the Allies in the Baltic region. Getting past the fictional back-story, our staff focused on all the skill sets necessary to find the enemy's locations and target them while coordinating these actions with the tactical movements of five divisions on the battlefield.
Obviously, "Saber Strike 2017" was not a lonely journey. 1300 soldiers from over 30 military units were involved both in preparing and in executing the exercise. The range of partners participating reflects the weight of the responsibility placed on Headquarters Multinational Corps Northeast. All in all, the Corps and NATO itself have once again demonstrated their commitment to safeguarding the freedom of its members in the East. The new capabilities of the Corps, together with political solidarity, guarantee that any act of intimidation directed against the nations of NATO's northeastern borderlands can never be perceived as an option with any prospect of success.