This kind of can be not something in which was recently planned. This kind of can be, in effect, the final act of a massive, decade-plus transformation of US force presence in Europe. in addition to whether or not the brand new Trump administration supports the continued rotations as a counter to Vladimir Putin’s expansionist approach can be a key question even as the first brigade begins its nine-month tour in Eastern Europe.
within the middle of my second tour in Europe — November 1989 — I was a major in addition to on “border duty” having a cavalry squadron near the West German-Czechoslovakian border. After months of political upheaval, we heard on the radio of the decision to allow unchecked civilian traffic between East in addition to West. in which action precipitated a flow of East Germans to freedom in addition to the item couldn’t be stopped; within months, the Berlin Wall came down in addition to the various countries of the Soviet bloc began breaking away via the Soviet Union.
Soon, we were without an official mission … in addition to the decision makers in Washington issued the orders for the beginning of a drawdown of forces as a result of the peace dividends associated with winning the Cold War. Had the item not been for Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, the force reduction in Europe in addition to the associated return of forces to the United States would likely have been realized much sooner than later.
nevertheless even with the force drawdown delay caused by the war in Iraq (after all, more than 60,000 soldiers via Europe deployed to the sands of Saudi Arabia in addition to Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm), the size of the US Army in Europe still began decreasing via a quarter million to about 0,000 soldiers by the end of 1998. US Army Europe would likely stabilize, nevertheless there were still two armored divisions (about 20,000 soldiers, with lots of tanks in addition to related combat power) in addition to a corps headquarters.
Start of a long war
Forward to 2001. I had just been assigned to the Pentagon when a plane hit the building. We were at the start of what we did not yet know would likely be a long war. nevertheless while US forces were deploying to Afghanistan in addition to a few months short of the US invasion of Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld issued orders to the commanding general of US Army Europe to begin reduction of his force. A number drove the goal: no more than 24,000 soldiers on the continent. Gen. Burwell Baxter “B.B.” Bell had the task of drawing down the force, closing most of the bases (called “kasernes” via the German word for “barracks”), in addition to redesigning the “footprint” for the Army in Europe.
In 2003, I left the Pentagon in addition to joined the 1st Armored Division, a unit based in Europe nevertheless in which had deployed to conduct the attack on Baghdad. After 15 months in combat, our division returned to Germany via Iraq, in addition to I transferred to become the commander of the Army’s European Training Center at Grafenwoehr, Germany.
The Army in Europe was within the early throes of transformation to the force designed by Bell, in addition to my job was to train the remaining force, engage in addition to train allied armies, in addition to transform a training center in which had been there since 1945.
At a Land Combat Exposition in Washington in September 2004, Bell outlined the design of the brand new force to the rest of the Army in addition to to the press in Washington. Since Bell was dual-hatted as commander of NATO Allied Forces Central Europe, he was concerned the force he was ordered to build would likely not contain the number of soldiers needed to contribute both to NATO missions in addition to engage with in addition to help train brand new Eastern European armies.
brand new way to defend the alliances
Bell presented an initiative he called Joint Task Force-East, or JTF-East. The idea was to rotate, rather than permanently assign, a brigade via the United States through two facilities in Eastern Europe; part of the brigade would likely be in Romania in addition to the different part in Bulgaria. in which rotational brigade — a force of about 4,000 soldiers with 0 tanks, 140 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, 18 howitzers, 400 different tracked vehicles, more than 900 trucks in addition to Humvees — would likely come to Europe for about nine months, leaving their families in addition to homes within the United States, in addition to at the end of the rotation they would likely immediately be replaced by another rotational brigade.
They would likely be temporarily “stationed” within chosen countries, in addition to via there would likely travel to in addition to conduct training with myriad European allies. This kind of would likely supplement the end-state European force of 24,000, in addition to the brigade would likely show the nations who were our NATO partners in addition to our non-NATO allies in which we were still defending the alliances.
The overall transformation design was approved, in addition to I moved via the training center to be Bell’s G3, the equivalent of a chief of operations to his role as commander or chief executive officer. Bell’s job was to drive change; my job was to help him execute the item.
The transformation efforts were not done in a vacuum. The plan’s timeline was constantly interrupted by many things: the requirement for deploying forces via Europe to Iraq in addition to Afghanistan, the building of brand new facilities, the consolidation of force at brand new locations, the bureaucracies associated with both the US in addition to German government approvals. nevertheless while often delayed, the transformation continued.
In 2007, Bell in addition to I moved to different jobs: He went to command forces in Korea, in addition to I went to command the 1st Armored Division in northern Iraq. We both watched via afar as the transformation of Europe continued. We both wondered whether a rotational brigade would likely ever deploy to JTF-East.
In 2011, I was selected to command US Army Europe. the item was a dream job. The command was in its final stages of transformation; the number of soldiers assigned would likely be closer to 33,000 rather than the 24,000 foreseen during the Bush administration; our units were still training for in addition to participating in combat in Iraq in addition to Afghanistan; in addition to we were actively engaging with the armies of 51 countries on the European continent. Amid all This kind of, I began reporting to my bosses intelligence showing increased terrorist ratlines throughout Europe as well as the increased adventurism of Russia’s Putin.
We were still uncertain about whether or not we would likely see a rotational brigade return to Europe when we opened the brand new headquarters in Wiesbaden, Germany, in addition to then put the last US Abrams tank on a boat back to the United States. Both those actions marked the end of transformation. There were still no indicators the Army in addition to Department of Defense would likely place an end-to-end rotational brigade in Europe.
Arrival of the brigade
Russian adventurism in Ukraine, Putin’s threat toward the Baltics in addition to Poland, in addition to an increased awareness by the Defense Department in addition to Congress regarding the need for an increased US force presence in Europe has changed all in which.
On Saturday, the 3d Brigade Combat Team of the 4th Infantry Division via Fort Carson, Colorado, participated within the welcoming ceremony for Operation Atlantic Resolve in Zagan, Poland. right now part of something called the European Reassurance Initiative, the brigade can be scheduled to train in addition to engage with armies via Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania in addition to Poland during its nine-month deployment.
While long within the planning stage, the physical presence of This kind of little force can be welcomed by all the NATO countries as the item reassures them of continued US support of the alliance. One soldier once told me “when tanks are on the ground, America means business.” Hopefully, Russia will understand This kind of little brigade combat team via Colorado means commitment to an ideal in which has been in Europe for more than 70 years.