French-led NATO exercise ORION
is first of its kind in over 30 years
By Pfc. Alejandro Carrasquel
U.S. Army Spc. Michael Alford, assigned to the 51st Composite Truck Company, 18th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 16th Sustainment Brigade, loads a M88A2 Heavy Equipment Recovery Combat Utility Lifting Extraction System, HERCULES, on to a M1070 Heavy Equipment Transport System during exercise ORION 23, at Mailly-Champagne, France, April 26, 2023. (Photo Credit: Pfc. Alejandro Carrasquel, U.S. Army)
U.S. Army and NATO allies work side by side in a French-led interoperability coalition training for the first time in over thirty years.
The French 3rd Division’s exercise, Large-scale Operations for a Resilient, Integrating, high-intensity Oriented and New Army, nicknamed ORION, was a culminating national exercise that took place across several French regions, from April 17-May 4, 2023.
“It’s their national exercise, so it’s their ability to show that they can lead this force in a large-scale combat operation,” said Maj. Robert Moore, an operations officer assigned to 1st Battalion, 77th Field Artillery Regiment. “It’s also an opportunity to show that we can have seamless unity and be able to provide large-scale combat operations against any foe that we may encounter.”
U.S. soldiers assigned to Alpha Battery, 1st Battalion, 77th Field Artillery Regiment, 41st Field Artillery Brigade, display an M270 Multiple Launch Rocket system, MLRS, in participation of a static display during ORION 23 at Suippes, France, May 3, 2023. (Photo Credit: Pfc. Alejandro Carrasquel, U.S. Army)
The exercise combines field tactic maneuvers, artillery maneuvers as well as air-space surveillance technology with joint air-ground integration centers composed of command teams from multiple nations.
“ORION encompasses a command post exercise,” said Capt. Shawn Botin, a brigade planner assigned to the 1st Armored Brigade, 34th Infantry Division. “It builds multinational interoperability and allows us to train with our partner nations in NATO.”
The exercise jointly trained over thirteen countries and foreign military forces in multiple facets.
“Our main interoperability goal is to learn the similarities between our nation and the other nations,” said Botin. “This refines our processes because if the United States were to be called upon to serve with a partnering nation, we can assist with providing a seamless transition into their work processes.”
ORION focused on large-scale combat operations; foreign forces have rallied together under French 3rd Division command to exhibit multinational interoperability.
U.S. Army Sgt. Kenneth Goodman, center, assigned to the Alpha Battery, 1st Battalion, 77th Field Artillery Regiment, 41st Field Artillery Brigade, helps a member of the French forces loosen a toe hitch from a M88A2 Heavy Equipment Recovery Combat Utility Lifting Extraction System, HERCULES, as part of a dynamic display during exercise ORION 23, at Suippes, France, May 2, 2023.
“We are not just here to train our Soldiers but also to assist with the training of the French 3rd Division as they are conducting the live portion of this exercise,” said Botin. “This exercise fortifies the relationships the U.S. Army has with its partners and lays the foundation to build new ones.”
During the exercise, U.S. Army troops with different specializations had the opportunity to work with their immediate counterparts from countries like Belgium, United Kingdom, Germany, Spain and more.
“I think the biggest take-away for the Soldiers is understanding that there are military members outside of the United States military,” said Botin. “Learning how to operate with them and seeing a specialist in the U.S. Army isn’t that much different from a specialist in the French or British forces.”
Moore went on to express that more than just on a tactical level, this campaign has benefited Soldiers on a personal level as well.
“The soldiers love to work with other countries and to build camaraderie, not just within their own unit but also our partners’,” said Moore. “You realize that we have a lot more in common than we have different.”