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(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

VILSECK, Germany -- The Department of the Army previously announced plans to reduce the number of Brigade Combat Teams assigned to Germany from four to two BCTs. This announcement was in support of the Army's requirement to downsize the force while beginning to support the "Pacific Pivot."

In October 2012, the 170th Heavy Brigade Combat Team inactivated while the 172nd HBCT inactivated one year later. With these deactivations, both HBCTs were directed to turn-in all of their equipment at various locations throughout Germany to be shipped back to the United States, repaired and issued to other units in support of Army requirements.

To lessen the loss of two BCTs in Europe and to meet the Army chief of staff's intent of having continental U.S. forces train in a multinational environment, the defense planning guidance directed the rotation of forces to Europe to reinvigorate the U.S. participation in the NATO Response Force (NRF) to train U.S. forces in a joint and multinational training environment.

The Joint Multinational Training Command located at Tower Barracks, Grafenwoehr, Germany, along with JMTC's Joint Multinational Readiness Center, located in Hohenfels, Germany, were selected as the command and training locations to support the Army's intent.

In a cost-saving effort to support this mission, the Army decided to establish an Army Pre-positioned Set-2 at Tower Barracks. This set of equipment is Army owned, but managed, accounted for, and maintained by the Army Materiel Command.

The Army Field Support Battalion-Germany, stationed at Rose Barracks, and subordinate to the 405th Army Field Support Brigade, stationed in Kaiserslautern, are the AMC elements establishing and managing APS-2. Since APS-2 is located in the European Command footprint, the Army designated the equipment as the European Activity Set.

The 405th AFSB is one of seven brigades of the Army Sustainment Command, headquartered at Rock Island Arsenal, Ill. ASC supports Army and joint forces in support of the combat commanders around the world.

The EAS concept was established to provide a modernized, fully independent, combat ready Combined Arms Battalion for the designated CONUS force to use as directed in support of NATO kinetic operations.

The Army chief of staff has stated the EAS will be an AMC-managed program, similar to existing Army Prepositioned Stocks sets and operations. As an APS set, the equipment must be ready to be issued to any organization as directed to support any contingency operation worldwide. Its secondary mission is to support Army designated training units allowing them to conduct joint and multinational training in support of the NRF.

In an effort to support this modernization, the Army directed the issue of M88A2s, nicknamed "HERCULES", to support the EAS mission.

HERCULES is an acronym for Heavy Equipment Recovery Combat Utility Lift & Evacuation System. The HERCULES was introduced into service in 1997; however, this is the first time a HERCULES has been stationed in EUCOM.

The HERCULES was designed to provide towing, winching, and hoisting operations to support battlefield recovery operations and evacuation of heavy tanks and other tracked combat vehicles. The M88A2 (HERCULES) is a full-tracked, armored vehicle that uses the M88A1 chassis but significantly improves towing, winching, lifting, and braking characteristics.

The HERCULES is the primary recovery support vehicle for the M1 Abrams tank fleet, the heavy Assault Bridge, and heavy self-propelled artillery.

On Sept. 25, the HERCULES arrived by train at the Rose Barracks Rail Head. With support from the local national work force from the Maintenance Activity in Vilseck, the arriving HERCULES' were safely downloaded from the train, fueled up for convoy operations, and convoyed to Tower Barracks.

The arrival of the M88A2s was just the tip of iceberg of equipment arriving in EUCOM from multiple AMC locations throughout the world to support the building of the European Activity Set.

Some of the EAS equipment will come from CONUS, South Korea, Afghanistan, Kuwait, and AFSBn-Italy (Livorno). Other equipment is currently in possession of the Army in Europe and will also be sent to Tower Barracks to fill the EAS requirements.