Opening Ceremony of the Noble Partner Exercise, July 30, 2017. Photo: Georgian MFA
Two-week long U.S-led Noble Partner military exercise started at the Vaziani training area outside Tbilisi on July 30, a day before U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to the country.
Over 2800 troops will take part in the drills, including 800 Georgian and 1600 U.S. military personnel. Other participating nations include Armenia, Germany, Slovenia, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.
The key purpose of the exercise is to enhance cooperation and interoperability between the participating nations.
Among the planned training events are: airborne operations led by the U.S. 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team; joint live-fire exercise of the Georgian Fourth Brigade and an American battalion from the Third Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division; U.S. Naval Forces Europe equipment transfer from Bulgaria to Poti port; and combined arms live-fire exercise built around a defensive scenario.
As part of the military exercise, U.S. military equipment was ferried from Bulgaria to Georgia’s Black Sea port of Poti, including Stryker infantry carrier vehicles, which will be taking part in the drills for the first time.
Strykers, together with other military vehicles, marched along the East-West highway on July 31 from Senaki Military Base in western Georgia to Vaziani training area, passing through several cities along the road, including Gori which was particularly affected in the 2008 Russo-Georgian war.
Other U.S. military equipment, among them M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks and Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, was shipped by rail from Poti to Vaziani training area. Part of the U.S. army equipment was delivered using military aircraft.
Addressing the opening ceremony on July 30, President Giorgi Margvelashvili said the exercise is “a very important” occasion for Georgia. “I could not describe this joint training more precisely than its name itself, because we [indeed] are noble partners and companions, bearing together the flag of freedom, democracy, human rights and global stability.”
PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili, who also spoke at the opening ceremony, said that the drills would contribute to the armed forces’ “better professionalism, better resolve, better combat readiness and better compatibility to strategic and international partners” and that “it would be a guarantee for more peace, security and stability for the country.”
Describing the drills as “one of the largest, complex and dynamic” military exercises held in Georgia, Defense Minister Levan Izoria said at the opening ceremony that this exercise “along with deepening cooperation and increasing capacity of the armed forces,” would bring the country closer to NATO standards.
“That the number of military personnel and the equipment has been significantly increased [this year], speaks to the support of the United States, NATO member states and partner countries to Georgia and the regional stability,” Izoria also noted.
Noble Partner 17 is a part of a series of U.S.-led military exercises that are being held in the Black Sea region, including the Saber Guardian, held in Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania, and the See Breeze, held in Ukraine.