The most challenging day of my 34-year Army career was on April 7, 2003, during the Battle of Baghdad as a part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In what has come to be known as the "Thunder Run," I served as the Battalion Commander of the 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment. As a part of 2nd Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division, our mission was to seize three key intersections along Highway 8 in order to secure the primary line of communication into the city. Through the course of the day, we pushed forward and secured our three objectives (Larry, Moe, and Curley) but found ourselves black on almost every class of supply and still in a 360 degree fight. Towards the later part of the afternoon, our need to resupply, particularly ammunition, had become singularly critical.

While that particular fight had significant challenges, logistics allowed those challenges to become opportunities. The capability to deliver the ammunition and classes of supply at the right place at the right time was the result of ruthless training and an aggressive attitude. Fomenting this, the actions of our flexible, adaptable, and courageous Soldiers allowed the team to plan quickly and move to execution on very short notice. While a tactical fight, Thunder Run underscores an important premise of theater-level logistics strategy planning: we can never lose sight of the vital importance of logistics preparation. Our ability to prepare in such areas as pre-positioning equipment, stockpiling theater supplies, and having a resilient and capable infrastructure are the strategic and operational level tasks that enable tactical success.

Within U.S. European Command (USEUCOM), logistical readiness is a key element of achieving our command priorities: fielding a combat-credible force that constantly improves the warfighting readiness of our Joint Force, strengthening the solidarity and unity with our Allies and Partners, and fostering a highly-motivated team of patriots. Shaping the European theater extends well beyond USEUCOM and our components. Our efforts, alongside our NATO allies and partners, are central to developing a logistics architecture that enables execution of a full range of military options in order to deter and, if necessary, defeat any potential adversaries. Flexible, agile, and resilient logistics serve as the cornerstone for generating and sustaining readiness and lethality in a dynamic environment. To do this, USEUCOM, in conjunction with our allies and partners, is focused on three key logistics areas: setting the theater, improving rapid movement across Europe to sustain operations and increasing interoperability across U.S. joint forces, allies and partner militaries.

SETTING THE THEATER

Our preeminence in building combat power for use in military operations is unmatched throughout the world. This advantage and our nation's ability to project combat power depend on several factors including our ability to maintain assured, secure access to the theater, host nation logistical capacity, the movement and stockpiling of supply, and a robust, reliable distribution network. All of these factors are paramount to success. This success demands that we continue to be able to quickly receive, stage, and project multiple combat brigades and enabler units through multiple ports and forward to point of need.

To posture for this potential scenario and to deter further aggression in Europe, USEUCOM is executing a logistics strategy that assures access and freedom of movement, improves logistics infrastructure posture, leverages commercial capacity in Europe and most importantly, improves vertical and horizontal synchronization with the Joint Logistics Enterprise. In line with the National Defense Strategy and critical to this effort, we continue to work with NATO, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, partner and host nations, and the European Union (EU) to maximize the entire Theater Distribution Network.

As an example of our collective efforts, in October 2018, USEUCOM and French military forces successfully conducted a proof of principle, demonstrating a large-scale strategic deployment in the port of Radicatel, France, marking the end of a 50-year gap in exercising bilateral military port operations in France. The exercise demonstrated the capability to conduct large scale joint reception, staging, onward movement, and integration (JRSOI) of equipment and cargo into the theater, thereby expanding the range of options for U.S. forces. In addition to identifying several opportunities for future improvements, the exercise strengthened our relationship with a critical ally.

Another critical aspect of setting the theater is to decrease our response times by leveraging unit equipment sets that provide surge forces the ability to rapidly respond in the event of a crisis. Army Prepositioned Stocks (APS), which consist of equipment for an Armored Brigade Combat Team (ABCT) as well as enablers, are vital to expanding USEUCOM's ability to rapidly move forces and enable a credible deterrent posture. Primarily resourced through the European Deterrence Initiative (EDI), the capability of our APS provides the very definition of scalability in terms of having a force posture that meets the challenges of a dynamic security environment. APS significantly reduces requirements for strategic lift assets when responding to a European crisis. Augmenting U.S. efforts, NATO recently announced $260 million dollars in funding to build a storage site in Podwidz, Poland for U.S. pre-positioned military equipment.

Rotational ABCTs are a significant portion of our rotational force and are comprised of approximately 3,500 troops and 3,000 pieces of equipment, projected from the continental U.S. in support of their nine-month mission to conduct bilateral, joint, and multi-national training events across Europe. An ABCT deployment equates to approximately four cargo vessels of equipment arriving through multiple European ports with subsequent onward movement by military convoy, commercial rail, line haul, and barges to different countries across Europe. To deploy and place one ABCT in Europe, it takes roughly seven different organizations from U.S. Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) and U.S. Army Europe partnering with host-nation military and local governments to plan, prepare, and execute movement of equipment and personnel into final tactical assembly areas. We have made significant progress with maturing our APS and improving force-flow timelines, which reduces the possibility of adversary miscalculation and further strengthens our NATO Alliance.

IMPORTANCE OF RAPID MOVEMENT TO SUSTAIN FORCES

The ability to rapidly move and sustain forces where they can be most effective is another key component of deterrence. Within Europe, virtually any movement of U.S. or allied forces requires crossing multiple borders of sovereign nations. Border crossings require customs processes, diplomatic clearances, route approvals, timing, and escorts, which vary widely amongst European nations. Detailed planning mitigates the potential for delays, disruption, higher costs, or increased vulnerability for fighting forces. To further mitigate risk, USEUCOM is working with NATO and the EU to standardize and simplify administrative procedures to reduce lead times and if needed, expedite movement of military assets across Europe.

Mutually beneficial solutions to these issues are essential to improving the speed of assembly and reducing the military resources needed to maneuver through complex administrative and customs requirements. The ability to move and sustain substantial surge forces rapidly to the point of need greatly enhances USEUCOM and NATO's deterrence posture and our defense against multi-domain threats. When a potential adversary realizes they cannot achieve objectives before U.S. and NATO surge forces are mobilized and postured, it is probable to alter their decision, change their calculus, and limit the potential for miscalculation.

INCREASING INTEROPERABILITY

Interoperability is the bedrock for effective allied operations in the European theater. Allies and partners that can quickly mass into an effective combat force, enhances our deterrence and, if necessary, the ability to quickly defeat an adversary. USEUCOM, NATO, and EU organizations work together to integrate logistics command and control and align infrastructure improvements to provide multi-national solutions for logistics support to steady-state and potential crisis operations.

Alignment of infrastructure improvements across USEUCOM and NATO simplifies troop and equipment mobility across European borders. During recent exercises, transnational support were validated using methods such as acquisition and cross-servicing agreements and host-nation support agreements. While these agreements will provide increased agility and redundancy, the requirements must be planned in advance, synchronized across NATO, and integrated with movement and maneuver requirements. EDI investments in resilient JRSOI have yielded infrastructure improvements as well as the APS and European Contingency Air Operation Sets. USEUCOM coordinates with USTRANSCOM in the Joint Deployment and Distribution Enterprise to find integrated solutions and facilitate strategic movement and maneuver through our military and commercial partners. The EU is also addressing logistics through its Permanent Structured Cooperation project focused on military mobility and partnering with NATO to better facilitate the movement of troops and equipment across European borders.

WAY FORWARD

The threats facing U.S. interests in the USEUCOM area of responsibility are real and growing. They are complex, trans-regional, multi-domain, and multi-functional. They require the United States, together with our European allies and partners, to constantly adapt with forces and concepts that are able to out-pace the evolution of these threats. To meet these threats and deter further aggression, we must collectively remain committed to the critical path of improving our readiness and force posture in Europe. Most importantly, the peace and stability in Europe is fundamentally based on our strong relationships with our indispensable European allies and partners. With continued focus on setting the theater, increasing mobility and improving interoperability with our Allies and Partners, I am confident the U.S. logistic posture in Europe will remain resilient and possess the agility to support full spectrum military operations.

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Lt. Gen. Stephen M. Twitty is Deputy Commander, United States European Command, Stuttgart, Germany. U.S. European Command prepares ready forces, ensures strategic access, deters conflict, enables the NATO Alliance, strengthens partnerships, and counters transnational threats in order to protect and defend the U.S.

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This article appears in the October-December 2019 issue of Army Sustainment.