VICENZA, Italy -- "I want to talk you today about Strong Europe," said Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commander of U.S. Army Europe, speaking to paratroopers assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade here on Feb. 24, 2015, about their role in Europe and what they represent.
"Think of it in terms of people, places and things," said Hodges. "The people, that's all of you paratroopers. You all play a vital role and we want to continue that."
During his visit, Hodges observed the brigade's preparation for its scheduled training mission in western Ukraine, providing feedback for paratroopers who will train the newly-formed Ukrainian National Guard.
Hodges emphasized the important role the 173rd Airborne plays in enabling the NATO Alliance through multinational exercises.
"When you train in all these exercises with your allies, you build relationships," he said, referring to the brigade's participation in exercises such as Operation Atlantic Resolve and the upcoming Swift Response and Saber Junction. "It is U.S. Army Europe's contribution to Europe on behalf of the Army, NATO and all the components that we support."
Strong Europe represents the strategic framework that Hodges introduced since taking command last year of the approximately 30,000 Soldiers forward stationed in Europe.
Training allows paratroopers from the 173rd to exercise their own quick-response procedures. As the Army's Contingency Response Force in Europe, the brigade maintains the ability to deploy on short notice to conduct the full spectrum of operations across the U.S. European, Africa and Central Command areas of responsibility.