Soldiers of the Army National Guard’s 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team are returning home after two weeks of supporting the International Joint Exercise Saber Guardian 2016 in Romania.  The 116th provided over 1,100 National Guardsmen from Idaho, Oregon, and Montana to augment the U.S. Army active duty component during this year’s annual joint exercise with nine other countries.

Gen. Nicolae Tonu, the deputy commander of the Romanian Land Forces 4th Infantry Division, spoke at the closing ceremony to congratulate and thank the participants of Saber Guardian 16.

“Today we finish an exercise that brought all of us closer together as nations and partners. This exercise gave us the opportunity to prove ourselves and to anyone else that we can work together as a team,” Tonu said.

Saber Guardian is an annual multinational exercise hosted alternately by Romania, Bulgaria and Ukraine. The exercise is part of U.S. European Command's Joint Exercise Program designed to enhance joint combined interoperability with allied and partner nations.

The training allowed Soldiers a unique opportunity to interact with military members from other nations.  For some Soldiers of the 116th this was their first time leaving the United States.  Saber Guardian 16 provided these Soldiers with a new perspective in which to observe the differences in culture, language and terrain they may encounter during a future deployment.

Saber Guardian 16 involved nearly 2,800 troops from five NATO countries (Bulgaria, Canada, Poland, Romania and the United States) and five Partnership for Peace states (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Republic of Moldova and Ukraine) and ran from July 27 to August 7.

This was the first year the 116th CBCT was invited to participate in the international exercise and follows their exemplary performance last year during their rotation to the National Training Center in Ft. Irwin, CA.

Lt. Gen. Timothy J. Kadavy, director of the Army National Guard, complimented the 116th CBCT and indicated the National Guard’s growing importance as a component of the U.S. Army total force structure.

“The Army, as it gets smaller, is going to need each and every Soldier in each and every unit,” said Kadavy. “The 116th is a tremendous unit and they’ve done a great job.”

Col. Farin D. Schwartz, commander of the 116th CBCT, expressed gratitude to the host nation of Romania and their outstanding performance throughout the exercise.

“The Romanians are excellent allies,” he said. “They’ve been very impressive in their ability to integrate themselves. They practice the United States doctrine and are very proficient at what we do.”

Schwartz also praised his own 116th Soldiers for their continued excellence and hard work.  “The men and women here with the 116th are really trendsetters and blazed a path for others to follow,” Schwartz said. “It doesn’t matter what component you are, regular Army or National Guard, we all integrate and we all have the capabilities to execute any mission that is given to us.”

Soldiers of the 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team are scheduled to begin returning home later this week.