LEŠT’, Slovakia – When the Soldiers from the 62nd Engineer Company left Colorado, they didn’t exactly know what to expect. A couple of layovers and 48 hours later the engineers from Fort Carson were standing in Slovakia in front of a line of armored personnel carriers, tactical vehicles, recovery wreckers and more – everything they’ll need for DEFENDER-Europe 22.
“All the necessary paperwork and equipment were ready and staged when we arrived,” said 1st Lt. Alexander Zakrzewski, 2nd platoon leader, 62nd Eng. Co. (Sapper), 4th Engineer Battalion. “We were really impressed, and our operators are really excited to run this equipment during DEFENDER-Europe 22.”
The equipment the engineers signed for was issued to them by the 405th Army Field Support Brigade. Part of the 405th AFSB’s Army Prepositioned Stocks-2 program, this particular set of equipment was transported from Army Field Support Battalion-Benelux’s APS-2 worksite in Eygelshoven, Netherlands, to the Equipment Configuration and Hand-off Area in Slovakia for DEFENDER-Europe 22.
One of the 405th AFSB’s other battalions – Army Field Support Battalion-Africa from Leghorn Army Depot in Livorno, Italy – was responsible for command and control at the ECHA site as well as equipment issue.
Sherwin Harris, who normally serves as the director of supply at AFSBn-Africa in Livorno, is the ECHA site lead in Lešt’, Slovakia, with over watch by AFSBn-Africa Commander Lt. Col. Miguel Flores. Harris said that when the APS-2 equipment arrived, the team immediately began downloading the vehicles and equipment sets from the line-haul transporters and lining them up at the ECHA site to be inspected for possible damage during transport.
“Now that the gaining tactical unit has arrived, together we are conducting inventories and preventative maintenance checks and services on every piece of equipment before they sign for them and take them out for training during DEFENDER-Europe 22,” said Harris.
According to Joshua Steinlicht, the quality assurance supervisor at AFSBn-Benelux, all the rolling stock issued to the 62nd Eng. Co. came from AFSBn-Benelux’s ASP-2 worksite in Eygelshoven. This included M113 armored personnel carriers, M88 recovery vehicles, light medium tactical vehicles, 10-ton wreckers, trailers and more.
“Having everything staged and ready to go when they got here made it easier for the gaining tactical unit to fall in, do the inventories and sign for the equipment,” Steinlicht said. “They said this equipment is in better condition than their home station equipment. The M113 armored personnel carriers, they said look brand new.”
“It’s insane,” said Spc. Tyler Kilcullen, a tracked vehicle mechanic with the 62nd Eng. Co., 4th Eng. Bn., 36th Engineer Brigade, III Corps.
“It’s unlike any equipment I’ve ever seen in the Army – super clean,” Kilcullen added. “It looks like it’s fresh off the line.”
“We’re a recovery asset so if one of the armored personnel carriers breaks down and can’t be driven, we have to go out and tow it back,” Kilcullen said. “It’s not that we don’t like to go out and play, but the less we have to tow the better.”
The operations officer at AFSBn-Africa, Cpt. Jeffrey Li, said the key to success for this ECHA mission was the coordination, planning and communication done between AFSBn-Africa, AFSBn-Benelux, the 405th AFSB headquarters, the contractors and enablers, and the gaining tactical unit leading up to the actual execution.
“Prior to coming here and meeting the gaining tactical unit face-to-face, we had already established a high degree of trust and transparency,” said Li. “That made all the difference.”
Zakrzewski said DEFENDER-Europe 22 is his second major training exercise – his first being a rotation to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California. He said he’s excited to be here working with the 405th AFSB and soon with the Slovakian Army’s 12th Nitra Mechanized Infantry Battalion.
“Our sappers will be running this APS-2 equipment – hopefully doing mounted and dismounted breaches, mine clearing line charge missions and hasty defenses – basically counter-mobility, mobility and survivability, our big three as engineers, while working with our Slovak partners during DEFENDER-Europe 22,” said Zakrzewski.
“Having something that’s good to go from the start is definitely a big morale booster,” he added.