HOHENFELS, Germany – Soldiers assigned to Kentucky Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 29th Infantry Division, reacted to improvised incendiary weapons during a multinational fire phobia training event at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany, Feb. 11, 2022.
The training, hosted by members of the Slovenian military, involved reacting to Molotov cocktails and simulated rioting during a mission rehearsal exercise, or MRE, prior to the 1-149th Inf. Bn.’s deployment to the Balkan region.
The Slovenian military familiarized the Kentucky soldiers with tactics and techniques to respond to riots and civil unrest, should they encounter such a situation while deployed.
“The purpose of the training is to help better prepare our soldiers in the event that any type of flammable material is deployed against us in a crowd control setting,” said Sgt. Matthew Joseph, an infantryman assigned to Charlie Company, 1-149th Inf. Bn.
The fire phobia training is designed to equip soldiers with the skills and confidence needed to maintain order and carry out their mission.
“The most challenging aspect of the training was overcoming the initial fear,” Joseph said, but that the Slovenian trainers were helpful in mitigating their anxiety.
The trainers stressed the importance of the defensive stance by assisting and adjusting soldiers to ensure proper positioning.
“Being able to realize that you have gear and equipment that can help sustain you from those types of threats and learning how to use it properly, along with the techniques that the Slovenians taught us, was valuable,” Joseph said.
Spc. Daniel Sparks, an infantryman assigned to Charlie Company, 1-149 Inf. Bn., also expressed that having faith in the trainers, as well as the equipment, got him through the training successfully.
“Your equipment works and you do what they tell you and everything turns out right,” Sparks said.
For Sparks, training alongside the partner nations added to the exercise.
“It’s really cool, and I like learning techniques that they use that are different from ours,” he added.
Joseph, who, like many of the soldiers, has never had an incendiary object thrown at him before, said the training will be valuable during their upcoming deployment.
“I came out with a better understanding of how to deal with that threat,” he said.
Sparks said now that they’ve completed the training, he feels more confident and equipped to handle such events.
“In the event of a worst case scenario and you’re actually in a situation where you need to know these techniques, we’ve now got the repetitions in and know what to do,” he said.
For Joseph, his favorite part of the training was the throwing of Molotov cocktails.
“I really enjoyed the training, and I think everyone else did as well,” said Joseph. “I think this really builds cohesion within the unit when we do these types of training events.”
Sparks said that he’s looking forward to continuing building unit cohesion and working alongside NATO partner nations during the upcoming deployment.
The citizen Soldiers of the 116th IBCT are currently in Germany training for their upcoming deployment to Kosovo, where they will work in conjunction with NATO partners to provide a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for all.