American forces remained on a heightened state of alert during the Cold War, especially those in West Germany, should a war against the Soviets ever materialize. One way in which the U.S. Army prepared itself for such an event was through conducting military exercises aimed at testing combat readiness, operational planning, and other contingency measures.
Exercise REFORGER (Return of FORces to GERmany) was an annual military exercise conducted by NATO forces during the Cold War. These exercises aimed primarily at ensuring NATO's ability to rapidly deploy troops to West Germany in the event of war in Europe. More importantly, the REFORGER exercises were designed to test American military response procedures and the ability to move conventional forces quickly from the continental United States to Central Europe.
REFORGER exercises combined two fundamental phases: the first was a small scale deployment of American forces from the continental United States to supplement U.S. Army and Air Force units already in Europe, and the second was field training exercises in West Germany. During a REFORGER exercise, thousands of Soldiers along with tank convoys maneuvered around the German countryside, testing and analyzing every aspect of modern warfare. More than just a mere show of force, REFORGER exercises provided valuable feedback to the
U.S. Army on the effectiveness of its doctrine and weaponry.
Elements from the 24th Infantry Division participated in the first Reforger (sic) exercise in 1969. The annual event culminated during the 1988 REFORGER, when the 1st Cavalry Division deployed nearly 9,000 Soldiers to Holland, drew prepositioned equipment, moved to a staging area, and then conducted field exercises were the largest European ground maneuvers since the end of World War II. By 1993, the last REFORGER was a mere fraction of the original.