The Montana Army National Guard is gearing up for "Exercise DEFENDER-Europe 20" later this year.
It will be the largest exercise of U.S.-based military forces to Europe in more than 25 years, and will show how effectively the United States can deploy a division-size combat-credible force from the U.S. to Europe in a short amount of time.
MTN News visited with Bravo Company of the Montana Army National Guard 1st Battalion, 163rd Infantry Regiment during some of their regular training near Townsend on Monday. That training included detonating claymore mines, launching mortars, and firing shoulder-fired missiles.
“Moving into DEFENDER-Europe 20 I’m very confident that my soldiers will be ready,” said Captain Jon Bogden, Bravo Company Commander. “Obviously with the time constrictions of the Guard, we make the best of every training opportunity.”
The 163rd has a long history of service to Montana and the United States, dating all the way back to the 1900s. The unit fought in the Pacific during World War II.
As a member of the 163rd, Bogden has served in Iraq with Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn in Afghanistan.
The members of Bravo Company, and the rest of the National Guard, are more than just soldiers. In addition to serving in the Guard, Bogden is also a small business owner of a fitness center with his wife.
The Guard requires one weekend a month, two weeks a year. The rest of the time those soldiers work in a wide variety of professions, and often serve their communities in other ways. “Roughly about a quarter of my soldiers are 'red card' firefighters,” said Bogden.
National Guard members are often called upon to assist with disasters and emergencies, like flooding and wildfires. “We’re always available, we’re always ready” said Bogden. “I am extremely fortunate to be in charge of 135 soldiers that can accomplish any task that’s given to them.”
While overseas for DEFENDER-Europe 20 the soldiers will participate in the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge. Bogden says he’s confident his soldiers will rise to that challenge as well.