BREMERHAVEN, Germany -- The first Soldiers from 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division arrived to Europe on Thursday, and they hit the ground running a day later by assisting with the initial offloading of the heavy brigade's equipment from boats in this German port city on the North Sea.
A "torch party" of about 250 Soldiers from across the 3rd Brigade's seven battalions landed in Hamburg, Germany, after departing their home station of Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Wednesday. They are the first of about 4,000 Soldiers from the Iron Brigade to kick off continuous nine-month rotations of ABCTs to central and eastern Europe in support of U.S. Army Europe's Operation Atlantic Resolve.
The first order of business is moving the 3rd Brigade's approximately 2,800 pieces of equipment -- including tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles and Paladin self-propelled howitzers -- off of three supercargo ships and on to Poland, where the ABCT will initially organize before disbursing its battalions to eight countries ranging from the Baltic to the Black seas.
It's a logistical endeavor spearheaded by USAREUR's 21st Theater Sustainment Command that will move by rail, line haul and military convoys, with the Iron Brigade initially serving in a support role.
"Right now we're helping fix any vehicles or identify maintenance issues and make fixes where we can as our equipment rolls off the ships," said Sgt. Michael Sansaver, a tank mechanic with Troop D, 4th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd ABCT.
Before dawn had broken over the icy port, Sansaver was climbing onto an M88 recovery vehicle to check what port workers thought might be tight steering, an issue simply caused by the cold weather. It was just one example of spot checks he and other Iron Brigade mechanics performed on tracked vehicles once they rolled off the supercargo ship Resolve.
"The 4-10 Squadron is working the mission command piece for the brigade here at the port of Bremerhaven, helping 21st Theater Sustainment Command manage the flow of our equipment into the European theater," said Maj. Travis Tallman, the squadron's executive officer. "We're attempting to identify any vehicles that have malfunctions or issues, so once they reach their final destination there are no surprises and we're ready to go to work as soon as everything arrives in Poland."
Maj. Joshua Smith, 3rd Brigade's support operations officer with 64th Brigade Support Battalion, has overseen the movement of the complete set of armored equipment from Colorado and ultimately to Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Bulgaria and Germany.
"It's an endeavor we haven't done in a while as an Army, moving this much equipment into an established theater," Smith said. "It's definitely going well, so far there are no hiccups. We were able to move our equipment from Fort Carson ahead of schedule and all of the sea vessels have arrived on time.
"We could not do something like this by ourselves; this is a team effort across all levels of the Army to get this done," he said. "We're ready to go! It's exciting and monumental to do a theater-opening process here in Europe, and we're collectively figuring out the best way to do things to help the next ABCT rotation."