German soldiers assigned to Surface Air and Missile Defense Wing 1 fire the Patriot weapons system at the NATO Missile Firing Installation (NAMFI) during Artemis Strike Nov. 7 in Chania, Greece. Artemis Strike is a German-led multinational air defense exercise. German soldiers Over 200 U.S. soldiers and approximately 650 German airmen will be participating in the realistic training within a combined construct, exercise the rigors associated with force projection and educate operators on their air missile defense systems. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Officer Candidate Sebastian Apel, Air Defence Missile Group 24)

More than 200 soldiers from the 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command participated in Artemis Strike 2017, a German-led multinational tactical live fire exercise Nov. 2-9, 2017 at the NATO Missile Firing Installation in Chania, Greece.

Soldiers from 5th Battalion, 7th Air Defense Artillery Regiment worked with more than 650 German airmen from the Surface Air and Missile Defense Wing 1 to create an integrated air and missile defense system construct as part of a NATO tactical evaluation.

Col. David Shank, commander of the 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, said this year’s exercise gave soldiers a chance to work with partners and allies in an environment that replicates real world conditions.

“This is a great opportunity for soldiers to do what they came in the Army to do and that’s put steel on targets,” Shank said. “We consistently train not only with our German allies but across the continent of Europe.”

For Soldiers in the 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, Artemis Strike 2017 has been a year in the making.

“The planning for this event began well over a year ago, during the last live fire exercise here in Crete,” Shank said. “There is quite a bit of planning and execution.”

The 5th Battalion, 7th Air Defense Artillery Regiment out of Smith Barracks in Baumholder, Germany deployed with two Patriot battery minimum engagement packages, known as MEPs, along with soldiers from Headquarters and Headquarters Battery to support the German allies during the multinational event.

“It’s about integration and it’s about having an integrated air and missile defense capability,” Shank said. “This is what soldiers train for and this is how we improve our craft. Our number one priority is to get better every day. We’ll continue to support our allies and our partners.”

For the soldiers participating in the exercise, rehearsals and training have played a key role in the success of the mission.

Spc. Nathaniel Murray, a Patriot launcher crewmember with Bravo Battery, 5th Battalion, 7th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, said one of the most significant things about the exercise is being able to operate with NATO partners and allies.

“They have the same weapon platform that we do, but theirs varies a little bit,” Murray said. “One of the best things about being out here is actually being able to see the missiles fire off. We train every day with simulations, but it’s great actually being able to finish the crew drill, unlock and connect the missiles and see the product of all of our hard training.”

Artemis Strike has provided soldiers like Murray with valuable training that help strengthen NATO bonds. Sgt. Zach Nacarato, an assistant section chief with Bravo Battery, 5th Battalion, 7th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, said working with allies and partners has been mutually beneficial to both the U.S. and German forces participating in this year’s exercise.

“It’s a really great opportunity for Soldiers to do this,” Nacarato said. “It’s the best training I think anyone could ever receive and especially working with our brothers in Patriot.”

Participating in multinational live fire exercises is not something every soldier like Nacarato has the opportunity to do. This is something he said wishes he could do more often because it helps build future leaders.

“I think that when the younger Soldiers become NCOs and go to different units, they’re going to enrich our ranks with knowledge,” Nacarato said. “They are just going to become great leaders when they get out of here and train their troops.”

Col. Arnt Kuebart, commander of the Surface Air and Missile Defense Wing 1, German Air Force, said working with U.S. forces is an essential part in the success of Artemis Strike.

“Integration in terms of air defense and air missile defense is absolutely key. No single nation is capable and able to perform air missile defense alone,” Kuebart said. “This is a truly joined and combined endeavor where different services and different nations have to come together and intertwine their services and their capabilities. This exercise, where we can work with the U.S. and the Germans closely together, is absolutely necessary and one of the key elements to achieve a workable and successful air missile defense.”

As U.S. Army Europe transitions into the Year of Integration, training with allies and partners during exercises like Artemis Strike continue.

“I’m quite confident that with the increasing capabilities and the increasing knowledge, that our individual soldiers and services gained,” Kuebart said. “The very big benefit of this exercise is that you are working in a tactical scenario therefore also proving your capability through a live firing with missiles.”

Soldiers from 3rd Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command, 21st Theater Sustainment Command, 7th Army Training Command, 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 2nd Cavalry Regiment, 16th Sustainment Brigade and the 30th Medical Brigade also participated in the exercise alongside their German counterparts.