Thursday, 20 September 2018 | News today: 0

Stars and Stripes: US Army sees Krivolak as training area for much bigger exercises

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More than 1,000 soldiers from US Army Europe and from the Army of the Republic of Macedonia (ARM) will hold exercise “Decisive Strike 2019” at Krivolak training area, US military newspaper Stars and Stripes reports.

About 200 soldiers from the US peacekeeping force in Kosovo are firing rifles, grenade launchers and missiles on the move for 20 days in Macedonia as a test run for much bigger exercises. The sprawling Krivolak training area south of the Macedonian capital of Skopje is giving soldiers from 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment a chance to sharpen their weapon skills during maneuvers that include firing anti-tank missiles from moving Humvees.

A dozen National Guard troops from the 126th Aviation Regiment in Massachusetts also are taking part, with Black Hawk door gunners strafing ground targets with their .50-caliber machine guns.

The drills, which finish Aug. 20, aim to demonstrate that the site is suitable for larger exercises, such as one planned next year that will have about 1,000 soldiers from the U.S. and Macedonia, military officials said.

This roughly 200-square-mile site offers similar training capabilities as Grafenwoehr, Germany, but is within a three-hour drive of Kosovo, which has no place for soldiers to do weapons training at this level, officials said, Stars and Stripes reports. The training area’s proximity to Kosovo would permit troops to return quickly to their posts if an emergency arose, said Col. Nick Ducich, commander of the Multi-National Battle Group in charge of security in eastern Kosovo.

Built 70 years ago, the training site was used by the Yugoslavian military for high-caliber weapon training and aerial assault drills, making it perfect for large allied exercises, said Patrick Enriquez, deputy chief for the Office of Defense Cooperation at the US Embassy in Skopje.

“The US Army is always looking for places to train,” Enriquez said. “We’ve been marketing Krivolak as an alternative, if not a solution.”