Airmen kick off Saber Strike with European partners Published June 14, 2016 By Senior Airman Nicole Keim U.S. Air Forces Europe-Air Forces Africa Public Affairs RIGA, Latvia (AFNS) -- U.S. Airmen joined more than 4,500 military members from 13 different NATO countries June 12 as they kicked off exercise Saber Strike 16, which will last through June 21.Saber Strike is a U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff-directed, U.S. Army Europe-led cooperative training exercise, which has been conducted annually since 2010. This year’s exercise focuses on promoting interoperability with allies and regional partners and improving joint operational capability in a variety of missions to prepare for the future.The exercise features the integration of close air support with allied and partnered nation ground forces as well as testing of air deployment of forces and equipment.Capt. Douglas Mabe, a 37th Airlift Squadron pilot and Saber Strike 16 C-130 mission commander, explained the importance of training for real-world situations.“Participating in Saber Strike allows the U.S. to accurately simulate supporting our NATO partners in a large-scale conflict spanning several countries,” Mabe said. “As tactical airlifters, we must always be prepared to execute any of our various mission sets and capabilities at a moment's notice, anywhere in the world at any time. This exercise will test our ability to successfully communicate across multiple branches of the military from various countries in order to achieve our mutual objectives and defeat the opposing force.”This year’s exercise will include participation from U.S. Air Forces in Europe, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa, USAREUR, the U.S. National Guard, and air national guard and military forces from Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Slovenia and the U.K.Although not a NATO exercise, Saber Strike trains NATO allies and partners to be ready with a credible capability to assure, deter, and respond quickly and effectively as a team to threats throughout the region.“It’s important to understand we are going to train like we fight, and that means a total force fight,” said Maj. Gen. Mark Loeben, the Headquarters U.S. European Command, J-7 director of exercises and assessments. “We are getting a lot of U.S.-only joint training objectives accomplished in this exercise, but at the same time we’re building the partnerships with our NATO allies. We build relationships, but we also assure our partners of the U.S. commitment to the NATO alliance.”By conducting training that focuses on a wide variety of scenarios, Saber Strike ensures that participating nations are trained and proficient in their ability to shoot, move, and communicate together.