WIESBADEN, Germany -- "This is all about deterrence," said Lt. Gen. Frederick "Ben" Hodges, commanding general of U.S. Army Europe. "To deter, you have to have real capability and demonstrate the will to use that capability."
Hodges declared 2017 as "Year of Execution" this past January during the annual U.S. Army Europe Commander's Conference in Weisbaden, Germany. He said the "Year of Execution" signified U.S. Army Europe's commitment to implementing the strategic decisions of the alliance.
Hodges will speak on this topic again during a Warriors' Corner presentation Oct. 11 at 10:55 a.m. at the Army Exhibit during the Annual Association of the Army Meeting and Exposition at the Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. He will present an overview on the critical mission along with brigade commanders, who led or are leading troops participating in Atlantic Resolve in Europe.
U.S. Army Europe demonstrated its deterrence capability earlier this year when more than 6,000 Regionally Allocated Forces rapidly deployed across 5,000 miles of ocean with approximately 3,800 pieces of their own equipment, ready to respond at a moment's notice in support of Atlantic Resolve and other joint and multinational efforts.
"This rotational force, deploying with its full complement of equipment, put U.S. armor and aviation back into Europe on a continuous basis for the first time since 2013," said Hodges. "Their forward presence is the bedrock of our country's ability to assure allies, deter adversaries and posture to act quickly if deterrence fails."
The 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, and 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division's deployment in support of Atlantic Resolve marked the beginning of a continuous U.S. armored and aviation brigade presence in Europe. The start of heel-to-toe rotations, made possible by the European Reassurance Initiative, is a strong signal of the United States' ironclad commitment to strengthening the defensive and deterrence capabilities of the alliance.
In 2016, during the NATO Summit in Warsaw, the alliance made the decision to shift its posture and focus from assurance to deterrence. The United States followed NATO's lead in this transition with a new security stance in Europe through enhancing the capabilities of the U.S. Army in Europe, its NATO allies and partners.
REGIONALLY ALLOCATED FORCES
The Regionally Allocated Forces concept demonstrates commitment to improving the unit's overall mission readiness by providing resources needed to train as they fight, as well as develop future leaders, Hodges said. The rotational forces conducted more than 90 exercises in 2017 across the theater with allies and partners during the course of their nine-month rotation, routinely demonstrating speed of assembly and freedom of movement.
"We were very fortunate to be put in the middle of this type of environment," said Col. Christopher Norrie, former commander of 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. "Within 10 days of the first piece of equipment being offloaded from the ships in Germany, Iron Brigade tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles units were firing live ammunition rounds down range in Poland, demonstrating the ability to move and assemble Soldiers and equipment to be ready to fight if necessary."
In the first half of their nine-month rotation, the brigade completed eight large-scale movements (battalion-sized or larger). This included assembling the entire brigade in Poland upon arrival; moving three combined-arms battalions to Germany, the Baltics and Black Sea region from Poland; moving the brigade headquarters and three battalions to Germany for exercise Combined Resolve VIII in April; and relocating the brigade headquarters and five of seven battalions to Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary for exercise Saber Guardian in July.
The unit also conducted 19 Emergency Deployment Readiness Exercises, which further built their collective ability to "fight tonight," if the need ever arose. The brigade command post changed locations six times, demonstrating its ability to move to a new location in less than an hour.
An armored brigade wasn't the only capability that was part of the heel-to-toe rotations. In the spring, the first rotational combat aviation brigade deployed as well.
"The rotational OPTEMPO is appreciably fairly high," said Col. Clair Gill, commander of 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division. "This environment spreads your unit over hundreds and even thousands of miles … providing the RAF formations great opportunities to execute mission command -- empowering leaders at every echelon to accomplish the mission within the commander's intent."
Because of its high level of training and readiness, the brigade logged more than 10,000 flight hours to meet training requirements and unforeseen events such as the President of the United States' visit, shock exercises and expeditionary operations, Gill said.
"It really was both an awesome responsibility as well as a rewarding deployment," Gill said. "Because we were the RAF and here in a deployed status, U.S. Army Europe had a ready-now armored and aviation brigade available to them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week."
Both commanders agreed that their missions would not have been successful without the support of their NATO allies and partners.
"The shared interest of expressing the will of the alliance is a very powerful motivator," Norrie said. "Having liaison teams and putting troops in the headquarters of allied forces and having that reciprocated, created a solution for problems as they arose."
Gill added that unity among nations is a strong message to those that would threaten the alliance.
LOGISTICS AND SPEED OF ASSEMBLY
A combination of active duty, U.S. Army Reserve and Army National Guard Soldiers arrived in Europe in early March to perform combat sustainment support battalion tasks under the 16th Sustainment Brigade, 21st Theater Sustainment Command. The units are based out of Poland and provide postal, military police, ammunition handling and other logistical support across eastern Europe to the rotational units participating in Atlantic Resolve.
"With the arrival of the regionally allocated forces, we've doubled our logistics capability for Atlantic Resolve to sustain a Strong Europe," said Col. Michelle Donahue, commander of the 16th Sustainment Brigade. "We have sustainment companies from six different states fused into one battalion and we have spread the battalion across four locations in eastern Europe."
Sustainment Task Force Rook is the first of many rotational, multi-component sustainment forces to support multi-national training exercises for Atlantic Resolve.
"Army Reserve and National Guard units have exceptionally cohesive units since their Soldiers often have years of experience working together," Donahue said. "These two components also hold the majority of the U.S. Army's logistics capabilities. Deploying a total Army sustainment force to Europe, a force that can solely focus on the mission, allows for uninterrupted combat power generation."
Conducting real-world support missions in Europe every day provides the task force with experiences not as easily accessible in the United States, Donahue said. European rotations of forces stationed in the United States raised the collective readiness for Army sustainment, she added.
Task Force Rook achieved its "Ready to Fight" status to conduct real-world support missions for regionally allocated forces and plans to continue to set the conditions for success for all future rotations of multi-component sustainment forces.
As the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, and 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, prepared to close out their nine-month long deployment, the incoming heel-to-toe unit, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, began its arrival into Poland.
"We enthusiastically accept the challenges and opportunities of Atlantic Resolve, the way we have dutifully accepted our missions of the past," Col. David Gardner, commander of 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, said. "We are always ready now, to be what America needs most, because no mission is too difficult and no sacrifice is too great."
The brigade has served most of its 100-year history in support of its European allies and will arrive after a year of training ready to do so again.
"This is what the deterrence looks like," said Hodges. "This is not just a training event, this is existentially about our survival if we're ever called upon to fight a conventional force."
U.S. Army Europe is uniquely positioned in its 51=country area of responsibility to advance American strategic interests in Europe and Eurasia. The relationships U.S. Army Europe builds during more than 1,000 theater security cooperation events in more than 40 countries each year lead directly to support for multinational contingency operations around the world, strengthen regional partnerships and enhance global security.