By Sgt. Erica EarlOctober 21, 2019
RIGA, Latvia -- In the dark hours of the early morning, with cold wind blowing in from the Baltic Sea, U.S. Army Soldiers began the process of offloading over 300 pieces of military equipment from the Green Ridge, a carrier vessel, in the Port of Riga, Latvia, Oct. 16, 2019.
This shipment is the largest shipment of American military equipment to come through Latvia. The 21st Theater Sustainment Command, the 598th Transportation Brigade and various movement control teams conducted 24-hour operations to offload, identify and stage vehicles and other equipment in preparation for movement across the European theater.
The Green Ridge made a two and a half day journey from Vlissingen in the Netherlands, where it also delivered U.S. military equipment.
Maj. Aaron Hiatt, executive officer for the 838th Transportation Battalion said that while the U.S. Army has conducted exercises throughout the Baltics before, this is the largest movement of equipment into the Port of Riga. He said this placement and access into new ports and terrain helps the U.S. Army be better prepared to quickly support its allies.
"We are showing to our adversaries and we are showing to our allies that we can bring combat power to where the theater combatant commander needs it most," Hiatt said. "We are getting a reputation here that assures our allies and shows a capable deterrence to our adversaries."
Mission readiness, support of NATO allies, security of the regions and deterrence have all been top priorities, Hiatt said.
The equipment brought in is in support of the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division from Fort Hood, Texas. The 2-1 CD is deploying to the region for Atlantic Resolve, a continuous effort promoting cohesiveness and regional security between the U.S. Army and our European partners and NATO allies through bilateral exercises ad training events.
The 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, 3 Infantry Division from Fort Stewart, Georgia, is also deploying in support of Atlantic resolve.
Lt. Col Stephen Johnson, battalion commander for 1st Battalion, 9th Cavalry Regiment, said he is excited for his Soldiers to have the opportunity to work with allies and partners in Europe, particularly those who have never been overseas before. His unit will primarily be operating in Lithuania and exchanging tactics and techniques as they train together.
"I want them to be good teammates, which is about learning from each other and teaching," Johnson said. "We're also going to be lethal. We are going to continue to progress from the individual all the way up to the company level. We are going to sharpen and hone our skills and come out even better."
The units with the 2-1 CD will inspect all their equipment before moving forward either on railhead or in convoys. Johnson said it was uncanny how quickly the teams were able to load equipment and deploy.
"The tasks that we've accomplished in the last month are nothing short of amazing," Johnson said. "We moved about a half a billion dollars' worth of equipment in my battalion alone through multiple processes and multiple systems across multiple means of transportation into a foreign country, and we have been welcomed with open arms."
Both Johnson and Hiatt said moving such a large amount of equipment can present challenges, but none that are not accounted for nor insurmountable. While the shipment itself happened quickly, it took a year-long planning process and multiple teams and civilians with the Surface Deployment and Distribution command to make this movement possible.
"It's the planning, it's the anticipation and bringing in all the entities to make sure we have one singular unity of effort to discharge cargo. I don't do it alone, the unit doesn't do it alone and U.S. Army Europe doesn't do it alone. It's the team of teams that come together that make all this happen."
As part of a heel-to-toe rotation, the 2-1 CD and 3 CAB, 3 ID will replace the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division and the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, respectively, both from Fort Riley, Kansas.