In early May, the U.S. Special Operations Europe (SOCEUR) conducted its largest annual exercise in conjunction with a smaller one, training with special operations units from several NATO member and partner countries.

Trojan Footprint 21 and Black Swan 21 are especially pertinent as tensions with Russia in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea are still simmering.

SOCEUR planned both exercises to happen at the same time to simulate a full-blown conflict with Russia ranging from the Baltic states and Scandinavia south to Ukraine and the Black Sea region.

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Romanian, Ukrainian, and U.S. Army Green Berets conduct close-quarters-battle training during Trojan Footprint 21 in Romania, May 6, 2021. (Photo by Captain Roxana Davidovits/Romanian Army)

U.S. Navy SEALs, Navy Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen (SWCCs), Green Berets, and Air Commandos were joined in the exercise by special operators from Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Georgia, Hungary, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Spain, Ukraine, and the UK.

The realistic exercises took place in Romania and across Eastern Europe.

Besides testing the interoperability of different national special operations units in skill-sets such as close-air support, close-quarters battler, and visit, board, search, and seizure, the two exercises, particularly Trojan Footprint, focused on how conventional and special operations units would work together in a major conflict with Russia.

Integration between conventional and special operations troops is essential in a near-peer conflict environment.

Navy SEALs vs. Russia

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Naval special operations forces from Croatia, Hungary, and the U.S. conduct maritime training in the Adriatic Sea during the Black Swan 21, May 8, 2021. (Croatian Ministry of Defense)

In a potential conflict with Russia, Naval Special Warfare units would be extremely valuable for several reasons.