The U.S. Army Test, Measurement, and Diagnostic Equipment Activity Region Europe is responsible for providing TMDE calibration and repair support to U.S. Army Europe and Africa Command and CENTCOM.
Region Europe has three of the 42 USATA support activities located throughout the world. Support Operations Chief Eric Palmquist said his team includes more than 20 technicians — Americans and Germans, who have more than 500 combined years of experience.
“We support the Army prepositioned stock mission as a real-world mission,” he said. “We don’t set it up as needed; we keep the TMDE calibrated at [scheduled intervals] 100% all of the time. When a division comes over, they get issued prepositioned stock and it is ready to go for them.”
The Army prepositioned stock program is a cornerstone of the Army’s ability to rapidly project power and send a clear signal of U.S. commitment. Sets of equipment, such as tanks and wheeled vehicles are strategically prepositioned in climate-controlled facilities worldwide. This reduces deployment response times by allowing Soldiers to fly to a theater and fall in directly on the equipment they need to fight and win. This includes all of the TMDE required by the soldiers to support their issued equipment.
There are five Army prepositioned stock locations, and USATA Region Europe provides support to APS-2 and APS 5.
“A unit will just drop its Soldiers and they’ll be issued an entire heavy brigade of equipment — tanks, trucks, tents … all the stuff they need to move forward,” Palmquist said. “Their mechanics will get issued toolboxes with calibrated torque wrenches and radio test sets that are functional and ready to test the radios to ensure they function properly. We calibrate that TMDE to make sure the vehicles move, the aircraft fly, and the radios are operational. We are the people behind the mechanics and the maintainers.”
Palmquist oversees three teams in Germany: Kaiserslautern, Illesheim and Vilseck. He arrived in fall 2020, at the height of COVID-19, but he said the pandemic had little to no impact on USATA Region Europe.
“Region Europe never shut down during COVID,” he said. “What we did was create a second shift. This allowed us to have larger work areas, so our workforce could socially distance. That really helped us out because it basically divided our workforce and prevented us from having COVID outbreaks. We were able to provide the services necessary and keep Army-Europe running; the mission didn’t stop, so we didn’t stop.”
In addition to the USAREUR-AF, CENTCOM and the APS mission, USATA Region Europe also supports Operation Atlantic Resolve and derivative exercises such as DEFENDER-Europe.
DEFENDER-Europe is an annual large-scale U.S. Army-led, multinational, joint exercise designed to build readiness and interoperability between U.S., NATO and partner militaries. Atlantic Resolve provides rotational deployments of combat-credible forces to Europe.
Palmquist said he’s a calibrator “from cradle to grave.” The Northern Minnesota native entered the Army after high school after he watched a LaserDisc about the career field. He said he was hooked from day one. He spent 13 years on active duty and nine years in the Army Reserves. Now an Army civilian, his current role as chief support operations has him in a managerial position, but he said he still tries to keep his skills sharp.
“My team chief lets me get in the shop and play around, as long as I don’t do anything too crazy,” he said with a smile. “I like to make sure I know the equipment and what’s coming through. In other words, I can’t manage something that I don’t understand, so I make sure my skills are current, even if they are a little rusty.”
Palmquist said one of his biggest concerns is the age of his workforce and passing on skills and techniques from one generation to the next.
“Passing on the knowledge is critical for me,” he said. “Our average age is about 56, so I’m trying to get some younger technicians in the door. My Americans are younger, but my Germans are up there in age. It’s an important mission, because the Army doesn’t shoot, move or communicate without calibrated test, measurement, and diagnostic equipment.”