FORT EUSTIS, Va. -- The commanding general of U.S. Army Europe provided a unique opportunity for professional development when he spoke to Soldiers and civilians at U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command's headquarters here April 13.During the discussion, presented by TRADOC's Army Capabilities Integration Center, Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges offered his insight on the importance of "Strong Europe." This term is all-encompassing and is used to define USAREUR's contributions - on behalf of the Army - to NATO, U.S. European Command and other combatant commands.What does Strong Europe provide?Strong Europe provides people."Take the Army motto of 'Army Strong,' and think about the 30,000 men and women that are forward-stationed in Europe," he explained. "We call that 'Strong Europe.'"Strong Europe provides the people for every mission, including logistics, communications and intelligence. Those people provide expertise, but more importantly, they provide relationships that can't be built from the United States."We're an ocean closer to every problem that the U.S. might face -- other than the Pacific," Hodges continued, "and there are relationships that exist, which enable the United States to have access into Europe."Strong Europe provides presence.One way the Army is building these relationships -- and providing a presence -- is through its contributions to European Command's Operation Atlantic Resolve, which began in 2014."Atlantic Resolve is a series of continuous exercises that stretches from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea and has a continuous presence of American Soldiers, who are either based in Europe or are part of the rotational force," Hodges said.This year, Operation Atlantic Resolve includes 24 multinational exercises of battalion-size or larger, such as the exercise currently going on in Hohenfels, Germany, that includes Soldiers from 17 different countries.Hodges said these exercises have become "the new normal" in Europe, and not only demonstrate the Army's commitment in providing landpower to combatant commanders and NATO's supreme commander in Europe, but also in providing assurance to U.S. allies."Our allies are going to continue to need to be assured that we are there, and nothing says commitment like American Soldiers standing there with them," he said.The USAREUR commanding general described a very recent example of this commitment and the people who showed their support for the Army. March 21 marked the start of Operation Dragoon Ride, a 1,100-mile road march through Eastern European countries that lasted close to two weeks.
"The biggest crowds of all were in Czech Republic, which really showed that the Czech people absolutely supported NATO and were happy to see American Soldiers."Strong Europe provides partnerships.Throughout these exercises -- and throughout Strong Europe, Soldiers build relationships, and the Army builds the capacity for partnership."If you accept the premise that we are never ever going to fight or conduct operations by ourselves -- everything that we do is with an ally, then you need to spend as much time as possible training with allies, training with partners, learning respect for other cultures and understanding what they have to offer," Hodges said.He recalled an example of a convoy from Vicenza, Italy, to the Ukraine."Just in the process of that convoy of trucks … they were going there to train Ukrainians, but they also worked with Austrian, Polish and German border security -- just to do this convoy."Hodges said it requires a high level of trust for young officers and noncommissioned officers to work directly with ambassadors, chiefs of defense and ministers of defense; however, that's the norm in Strong Europe.
"I spoke to the president of a country, and he's talking about the company commander -- the captain -- by name," Hodges said. "One -- that's an indication of the amount of contact they had, and two -- the fact that the president of this country is telling me about the captain tells you the impact, or the respect they have for him."Strong Europe provides preparation.As these young NCOs and officers build trust and partnerships, their experiences are also preparing them to become leaders of the future force, and, as the Army Operating Concept states, to "win in a complex world.""We're living the Army Operating Concept," he said. "It is a very complex environment."Being in a multinational environment with constrained resources requires adaptive leaders, and Strong Europe provides opportunities to grow, train and develop on a daily basis, Hodges said."When you look at what U.S. Army Europe is doing, it is the leadership lab for the Army," Hodges said. "You've got young officers and NCOs in charge of things going on all over Europe, without a lot of supervision, so we really depend on successful implementation of mission command."We say 'here's the vision, here's what I need you to do, I'm going to have to trust your judgment, and you and your troops need to get it done without a whole lot of help, and quite frankly, not all the resources that you need.'"Hodges acknowledged TRADOC -- and ARCIC in particular -- for their hard work on the AOC, as well as the command's commitment to building and shaping the Army -- even in the face of unknown challenges."Even as the Army gets smaller, TRADOC has continued to produce great young privates, great NCOs and great officers," Hodges said. "If you think about the different challenges that the Army faces around the world -- and how fast the world can change … that shows you the challenge of trying to anticipate the future."The commander added that his own professional experiences at TRADOC helped him understand how hard TRADOC works to continually adjust to the ever-changing environment and produce the best products possible for Soldiers in the field."I was an instructor at the Infantry School for two years, and that was one of the best jobs I ever had -- being a small-group instructor," he said. "I learned more than any of my students ever did -- that's for sure."But in addition to producing great leaders and great units, Hodges said perhaps one of the most important things TRADOC does is teach people how to think -- adaptively and innovatively.Aside from the ever-changing challenges the Army continues to face, there is one challenge that has remained for more than a decade, and Hodges is hopeful TRADOC can help find a solution.He added with a laugh, "I hope that TRADOC is working on a plan to finally beat Navy. It's been about 11 years now -- surely some of your brightest and best people are working on this -- that would be helpful."