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Soldiers partner with Hungarian engineers to cross Danube tributary

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Sept. 15, 2015) -- Soldiers with the 4th Squadron, 2d Cavalry Regiment, plan to execute a tactical, NATO-standard crossing of a tributary of the Danube River in Hungary, early Sept. 17.

Both American and Hungarian Soldiers will cross the river, as part of Exercise Dragoon Crossing, on pontoon bridges laid by engineers with the Hungarian army.

The event marks the third time this year that 2nd Cavalry Soldiers, based out of Vilseck, Germany, have partnered with the Hungarian army as a way to build multi-national interoperability, improve their own readiness, and demonstrate the United States' strength and commitment to European partnerships.

"It's a tactical operation, where we are doing tactical tasks," said Col. John V. Meyer III, commander of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment. "We are demonstrating operational freedom of maneuver across Eastern Europe, and that is having the strategic effect of enabling our alliance, assuring our allies, and deterring the Russians."

As part of Dragoon Crossing, about 520 Soldiers from 2d Cavalry and 136 vehicles - including 24 Stryker Combat Vehicles - road marched 726 kilometers from Rose Barracks in Vilseck, Germany, to a location in Hungary, where they and their counterparts from the 25th Infantry Brigade of the Hungarian army will cross a tributary of the Danube River.

Afterward, both the Americans and the Hungarians will continue road marching an additional 120 kilometers to a training location in Hungary where for six weeks they will continue to train together as part of Exercise Brave Warrior.

As part of the river crossing, the 173rd Airborne and a Hungarian airborne battalion are scheduled to conduct an airdrop the night before the river crossing, to put infantry troops on the far side of the river to secure the crossing site.

In the morning, the plan is to have Hungarian ground troops seize the near side of the river and then, using four BTR-80 amphibious armored transport vehicles, cross the river to secure both banks.

Finally, Hungarian army engineers will bring in pontoon bridges so both the Americans and the Hungarians can cross the river.

The total length of the road march, from Vilseck, Germany, to the final training site in Hungary, is about 846 kilometers. All along the way, Meyer said, Soldiers and leaders are engaging with civilians and civic leadership.

"What we are doing is we are developing those leaders," he said. "The opportunities these leaders and Soldiers are having, I don't think you could get anywhere else in the U.S. Army right now. We have troop commanders and first sergeants who have planned and executed a 846-kilometer tactical movement, with multiple stops en route, and they are engaging with local populations, including mayors of towns, and senior leaders of Czech, Slovakian, and Hungarian armies."

Along the route so far, Meyer said, he's seen the same level of support for the United States, the Army, and NATO that his regiment saw earlier this year with the "Dragoon Ride," where about 400 U.S. Soldiers traveled more than 2,092 kilometers across Eastern Europe from Estonia to Germany.

"This has been absolutely amazing, and what an opportunity to demonstrate how the U.S. is viewed across Eastern Europe," Meyer said. "All along the Autobahn, on the overpasses, were signs of support for our country, for the U.S. Army and for NATO."

He said he saw similar support in the Czech Republic, and Slovakia as well.

"I was just at a static display that we had in Slovakia, and I was watching the children and the teenagers from the school that were present, and all of the civilians and the adults that came out to see our Soldiers," he said. "It was the same thing there - overwhelming support, in some cases expressed to me directly, about how thankful they were that we were in Slovakia."

Meyer said that along the route, the U.S. Army got support from the Czech army, the Slovakian army and the Hungarian army as well. He said that one example of increasing interoperability was the ability of U.S. forces to get fuel from partner countries, "proving and demonstrating we can train and fight as an alliance."

When the 2nd Cavalry completes the river crossing the morning of Sept. 17, the regiment will continue on toward more training with the Hungarian military - an organization that Meyer said he is impressed with, and he is also convinced that they will make excellent partners in the defense of Eastern Europe.

"I have been truly impressed with the Hungarian army," Meyer said. "This Army is a strong partner to the alliance and the U.S. Army. They are very capable and very proficient at what they do. They are a professional army that is sincerely working to strengthen their ability to defend their country and defend this alliance. The Hungarian army has been very impressive with how they have been approaching this, the seriousness they put into their relationship with the U.S. Army, and their contribution to NATO as one of the alliance members."