Return of Forces to Germany or REFORGER was an annual exercise in Europe during the Cold War. It featured units arriving in Europe and drawing equipment from Prepositioning Of Materiel Configured in Unit Set (POMCUS) sites and then rolling out to engage a fictitious enemy. European-based units conducted training based on their General Defense Plans. A Combat Photography unit captured III Corps’ portions of the 1987 REFORGER exercise on video. At the time there were two additional Corps (V and VII) already in Germany.

Since I am currently in Germany and participated in REFORGER 88, which was actually the last of the series to feature large maneuver, I thought it would be a cool share.

Part 1

Part 2

29 Responses to “REFORGER 87”

  1. Stefan S. says:

    Ahhhh, the good ol’ Army. SQT, No Female Rangers, No PC and no SJW’s running the Pentagon and in the White House! I miss Reagan’s Army!

    • Mike says:

      I know, right Stefan!

      Except for Finance, never came across a squared away finance troop. I was never in during the “Good ol’ Army” but I miss it vicariously through folks like Stefan. Back when an all white military pay system never made a mistake and everyone got paid on time (Sometimes even more then you were due just to make things sweet)

      Chow is a mess too…and I JUST KNOW that the $0.29 tax exempt meat substitute patty they give me would taste exactly like Ribeye if some FEMALE wasn’t trying to pass Ranger School. The hell are they thinking. We shouldn’t even entertain the possibility…. I’ll have rampant IBS after I retire because the new SJW Army let the women out of the kitchen.

      (Thanks Stefan for inspiring some satire. We’re glad you’re gone.)

      P.S- Your generation lost every war it fought. Oh, and you didn’t have SJWs, minorities, and women to blame it on…….weird.

      • Will Rodriguez says:

        Lost every war?

        Obviously haven’t heard of Grenada, Panama, Desert Storm and the Cold War?

        By trying to offend every soldier from that period you did the same thing Stefan did.

      • Jester says:

        Mike, you may want to study a little history before you go making yourself look like an idiot again.

        Especially since you don’t know what generation Stefan is from. Or do you just assume anyone in Reagan’s military was from a specific period in the 50s to 60s?

      • straps says:

        Curious to know exactly what you mean in your reference to an “all white military pay system.”

      • Stefan S. says:

        Mike.. You obviously missed my point. The Cold War Army wasn’t perfect it, but it have “Good order and discipline”. No In living Color “Men on Art” soldiers or unit formations looking like Ru Paul’s drag Queen. Oh and lastly Mike I was an 11C before I went SOF 1987-2012. I don’t recall ever loosing anything. Go back under your bridge.

    • Mike says:

      Didn’t mean to snap folks.

      I was having a great time looking into the stories behind this article. Watched the videos and was having a pretty awesome time looking at a part of recent history I didn’t know about.

      Then I come to the comments and see some crap like this.

  2. AbnMedOps says:

    I had just arrived to 1 AD in August 88, and though my unit did not directly participate, just a couple months later I witnessed plenty of REFORGER 88. Tree-top level fast-movers, and nap-of-the-earth helicopters everywhere. Countryside, farm fields, roads, ports, and railheads covered with troops and equipment. Autobahns filled with convoy after convoy after convoy. The sheer scale was astounding. The expenses were immense, but the ability to have tens of thousands of troops personally experience the ground they might actually fight upon, and to flex and stress so many of the support structures and logistic enablers of a NATO war had to have been of incalculable value.

    However, the costs, including maneuver damage reimbursements, were astronomical!

    My next unit did participate in REFORGER 90, around Jan/Feb of 90 IIRC, which was a scaled-down “REFORGER Lite” event. 1/3 was unit maneuver, 1/3 was computer simulated, and 1/3 was representative maneuver (ie: HMMWV’s with 1,2,3, or whatever colored Styrofoam balls on their antennas, representing platoons/companies/battalions or different types of units).

    • Will Rodriguez says:

      Yes it was impressive.

      My concern is we can’t do it now while the Russians can mass 40k+ troops in 48 hours. We and NATO have a BDE each spread across four countries to deter them (and NATO’s is light).

      • straps says:

        The Russians can muster 40K undisciplined thugs in 48 hours. Lethal thugs to be sure (especially to the unarmed and untrained) but thugs nonetheless.

        We should train realistically and with the understanding that we will face trained, equipped, tenacious and even fanatical adversaries on their own terrain.

        We shouldn’t sell them short. But we shouldn’t sell ourselves short either.

        Mainstream media may not be doing the deep dive into the struggles the Russian military has faced on the ground (and even in the air) in Syria (and other places they’ve projected force), but other open source outlets are.

        One key to preparing to project force viably is passing real-live budgets. We stopped doing that a few years back and are starving assets like STRAT AIR. POTUS–EVERY POTUS–needs his owned damned fleet of C-17s, which he now pulls from hide whenever he wants or needs to move.

    • SSD says:

      Dude! Awesome.

  3. SSD says:

    Lariat Advance

    • GW says:

      Man, I have woke up to that being yelled up and down the barracks hallway as well as called in to me on the platoon alert roster.

      I served in 2ACR 84-87 and missed Reforger 87, think I did one in 85trained a bit with the BGS. After 18 months stateside Big Green sent me back so that I could be in the one in 90. Winter Reforger or as referred to it, winter REFREEZE.

      It was a great time to Soldier.


  4. SSD says:

    When I arrived in the FRG in 1988, it was still very much a country occupied by the Allied Powers.

  5. Bastian says:

    Ah those childhood memories. I remember travelling on the Autobahn with my parents enroute to our vacation in the south of Germany.
    Seeing those endless columns of vehicles and tanks.

  6. Ray Forest says:

    Leather Holsters with 1911’s in them.
    Tankers coming off the plane with M3 Grease guns
    Bradley’s with M231 ball mounts still installed for the Infantry to shoot out from inside
    When the pickle suit was solid green and was the only wet weather option
    Humvees and Jeeps

  7. Todd says:

    Did I catch a glimpse of a shelter half! Yes our mechanics had grease guns and I got a 1911 in a leather holster with my m60. I remember when I first drew it out of the armory and was like WTF. If it ever makes it to the CMP, it will probably bring a small fortune. They still unbelievable worked, almost zero finish on them.

    • straps says:

      Would you rather…

      Shelter half, risking an M60 rolling through your bivouac area,


      GP medium, trusting that the kid you put on stove guard knew how to keep it running without asphyxiating or incinerating the whole platoon?

  8. Darkhorse says:

    I too, although slightly behind these times, am from that era of military. The one thing I will point out in response to these large scale exercises, is that typically a soldier ended up pulling security on an evergreen tree of some sort.

    So while I support the notion that back then it was better, there are many aspects that were not. Training, more specifically realistic training, wasn’t so good back then.

    • Kirk says:

      Depends on what kind of training you’re talking about. The bigger part of REFORGER wasn’t training the combat arms folks, but the logistics types. The field time for the grunts was really just there as a “needs generator” to inject realism in terms of supply demands and transportation requirements. Any actual combat arms training benefit was just gravy.

      I’d also submit that the “old days” had better low-level training than we do today, because there was more of it going on, and it was better supported. Today’s big picture training is perhaps better organized and more effective, but I honestly couldn’t tell you if that is actually an accurate assessment.

      One thing I can point to is that the current use of things like TASC is way, way below what it was in the 1980s. Time was, everybody was using that resource, down to the squad and platoon level. The last line platoon I took over…? I had to take my squad leaders over and show them where it was, and what it had. And, in terms of what was available from them…? Yeesh. Not even a pimple on the ass of what it used to be. Big Army really kind of quit spending money on training support in the 1990s, I’m afraid. TASC has kind of morphed into a graphics/vismod shop on most installations.

      • straps says:

        TASC. Wow that brings back some memories.

        I’m not sure what a 4:1 scale model of a SINCGARS radio could do for my unit better than the ability to schedule 10 joes at a time for 4 hours of contractor-supported training with functioning units in a “smart” classroom in my battalion AO.

        Squad- or Section-level training (whether opportunistic or deliberate) will only be as good as the NCOs who LEAD it.

        • Kirk says:

          Training support is one of those things that you don’t miss unless you’ve actually made effective use of it. And, if your trainers don’t know how to use the equipment and services provided, wellllll… It’s all useless.

          A lot of the problem stems from a twofold issue: One, the Army really quit emphasizing quality training done on a continuous basis, and two, the money to keep the training aids updated went away. You could get tons of Vietnam-era stuff, a lot of 1970s and 1980s stuff, but as far as modern current-issue? LOL… They were too busy churning out chart packages for ROTC and the various “good ideas” people had somewhere in a staff section.

          There’s a lot of old-school training stuff that the Army just doesn’t bother with anymore–I’d say the example you use of an oversize SINCGARS might be an example of something we shouldn’t feel too bad at losing, but then again, the vanishing of OPFOR mine kits for doing familiarization with…? That might be something we’re going to wish we hadn’t abandoned.

          I think a lot of the problem is that we’ve simply hand-waved away a lot of the issues–Under BTMS, they used to have Central Texas College coming around and doing week-long training seminars on “How to Conduct Training”, run by retired senior NCOs and officers. That’s been gone since the late 1980s, and I really think that was a serious loss. The half-ass stuff you get in NCOES isn’t a shadow on having some crusty-ass retired E-8 or E-9 critique your class presentation and material in depth. I’ve been through both pipelines, as one of the last guys to experience both of those regimes, and I’m going to say that the way we’re doing it now at NCOES is really not that effective. Hell, when the CTC guys were drilling us, they dragged us down to the actual TASC, and made us go through the warehouse to see what they had, and demanded we figure out uses for what was there. PLDC, BNCOC, and ANCOC? They may have mentioned that there were such things as a TASC, somewhere in one of the classes, but there sure as hell wasn’t anywhere we spent time down at the actual facility finding out what it had, or how to use it.

          The “Old Army” had its issues, for sure, but there were some things it did a lot better on than we are currently.

          • SSD says:

            It’s computers, the “convenience” of online training and task saturation what with all of the distracting, ancillary training. Hard to worry about individual and collective training when SSDs have to be done.

          • straps says:

            I think our main dispute is on semantics. Most/all the resources you lament the disappearance of have been taken over by contractors. Upside: Organizations like JIDO push MTTs into the field to show units what countries like Russia and China are building for state actors, as well as trends in IEDs globally and locally. If you have 4 hours, they have a four-hour block. If you can give them 8, they have a full day to scare the bejeezus out of your guys. Information is generally current. Downside: higher cost to the force (through for generally better information), and variation in quality (like some good retired NCOs work in TASC or DPTMS or whatever acronym supports training efforts on the installation, some dirtbags also get these jobs).

            Any Command Team (at Plt/Co Level) who isn’t devoting LDP time to the mechanics of small unit training development and delivery–and modeling same–needs to be pulled from the force and given a job with a greeter vest or a polo shirt in a primary color. There are people out there getting it done, there are people faking the funk. As there were back in the day.

            TASC is no longer the ONLY resource out there, and that’s unfortunate for the reason that in 1984 you could go to ONE PLACE for an injection-molded piece of plastic that looked like a mine manufactured in the 1960s, and a stack of flipcharts developed in the 1970s. Contrast that with the period between 2006 and 2007, when the success of our IED countermeasures changed pretty much everything to pressure plate (COMPLETELY different set of indicators). That info came down through MULTIPLE streams. Where it conflicted, we went looking for insight into specific AOs, or did something even more revolutionary: we trusted E-3s to process two conflicting pieces of information without vapor locking.

            I agree on the importance of having a signature card on file to draw resources from TASC, even as it is today. I’m also that guy who pushes for waivers that allow E-5s and even E-4s with the demonstrated maturity to attend training conferences where providers disseminate their programs and schedules. That networking–with training providers and adjacent units (where youngsters learn the “Art of the (drug) Deal”) is definitely a competency they don’t stress enough in NCOES…

            • Kirk says:

              See, here’s the thing–You have to ask yourself “Which is more effective? Option “A”, where PFC Snuffy has to work through a never-ending PowerPoint deck, or Option “B”, where PFC Snuffy participates in a low-level training event covering the same ground, where his platoon sergeant took one fireteam out, trained them in Soviet-style minelaying technique, and then had the rest of the platoon do practical exercises in reconnaissance of that minefield, reporting it, and then breaching it…?

              Consider, too, the training benefit of actually having the expertise to put together these things and run them down in the unit, vice being some contract mob that’s both difficult to schedule, and expensive.

              The Army, in my humble opinion, has really fucked this whole thing up. The reliance on external contractors to develop, deploy, and run “quality training” has simultaneously made said “quality training” exponentially more expensive and far less flexible, and it has really done a lot of damage to the leadership cadres which used to do this stuff on their own.

              You want to really teach a junior NCO or officer a task? Require them to train others on it, and then supervise them intensely. We’re reaching a point where the senior leadership doesn’t even know how to perform their roles in this sort of thing, and they’ve sloughed a lot of what they should be doing off on contractors, who quite often don’t have the motivation or practical knowledge themselves.

              At the rate they’re going, I can easily see the Big Army guys turning the Master Gunner slots into contractor positions, to the overall detriment of leadership quality in the units. After all, how the hell do you expect SGT Smith and SSG Jones to make use of “expert authority”, engaging with their troops, when you have to have some external expert come in and conduct routine training for them…?

              I really think a lot of the people running today’s Army have lost the fucking bubble, in a lot of ways. Sure, it’s great to be able to find a job running IED training as a contractor, when you’ve retired, but at what cost to the leadership and training environment out in the units…?

              Not to mention, the sheer expense and inflexibility of it all.

              • straps says:

                Agreed 100% on the expense. When we find a contractor out there in breach, we light his ass up and ensure his next few days back at the office will be a test of fortitude. If we don’t get satisfaction from his chain we start pulling on ours. Everybody works for somebody.

                I’ve been that Private in the team room with good NCOs and bad. And I’ve been that 1SG who had the privilege of watching a PFC who had just returned from contracted CLS teach an entire company–correctly–how to treat a penetrating wound to the thoracic cavity, all the way to diagnosing and treating tension pneumothorax.

                As you say, finding and grooming leaders in an in-house function. The role of the company leadership is ensuring that, and mastery of individual and collective tasks and battle drills in the core competency domain.

                My battalion’s 6 shop is too busy keeping the Old Man’s Blackberry updated (and ensuring they get certs and experience that will prepare them for a lucrative future in IT) to spend an afternoon teaching us radios. That is what it is. Given the choice between nothing and a retired 18E or even a well-rounded experienced 25C dispatched by a contractor, I’ll take it. Every one of my NCOs (and I) understood that they would be receiving training they would be responsible to apply and deliver later. That still happens. Not everywhere, to be sure, but it does.

  9. Coyote says:

    Ahh the memories, We were OPFOR for Certain Challenge in 88. My fondest memory is some guy in supply handing us out our MRE resupply and within a few minutes realizing they had given us some US Based units MRE’s.
    New ones with M&Ms and little bottles of hot sauce, they asked for them all back…that didnt go over well, and they all disappeared before some Officer showed up demanding them back

    • straps says:

      Ah man that brought back memories of literally my FIRST detail after arriving in Germany in 1984 (in preparation for ReForGer): I was detailed to my salty-ass Supply Sergeant (a broken Infantryman with a CIB and a 173rd patch with Mustard Stain–that dude had some stories) to draw MREs. As we drove to the warehouse, he suggested I observe the attitude of the bitter old German dude who would be issuing our rations. He vibed the resentment of occupation harder than just about any German I ever met. This was the guy safeguarding our rations. “SFC 173’s” thing was to tell everyone to squeeze check their packaging to ensure the integrity of the seals, lest “Herman” take a shot at poisoning us…