Bringing the US Army’s Combat Power to Europe: It takes a Global ‘Team of Teams’ to Accomplish a Transportation Mission on This Scale

Aug 25, 2020 | DTJ Online

Since 2014, the US Army has deployed brigade-sized, combat-capable units from the United States to Europe in support of an ongoing operation called Atlantic Resolve. The primary purpose of Atlantic Resolve is to enhance deterrence and to conduct activities that increase the United States’ ability to respond to potential crises across the European theater.

Participating Army units, which come from locations throughout the US, deploy for nine months, during which time they train closely with European allies and partners. At the conclusion of their deployment, the units return to the US. At any given time, approximately 6,000 US Soldiers are participating in Atlantic Resolve, making it one of the most visible demonstrations of the United States’ strong commitment to NATO [the North Atlantic Treaty Organization] and Europe.

US Army Soldiers assigned to the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, arrive at Grafenwoehr Training Area to support Atlantic Resolve in Germany, June 23, 2020. 101st CAB deployed, as the sixth rotation of an aviation brigade, to Europe for a nine-month rotation as part of the regionally allocated forces supporting Atlantic Resolve. 101st CAB will spend two weeks at GTA in group isolation to prevent and mitigate the spread COVID-19 before moving to forward locations alongside allies and partners. US Army photo by SGT Alleea Oliver/Released.

The most recent iteration of Atlantic Resolve started in July 2020 and involved the deployment of the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB), 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) from Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The 101st CAB is equipped with approximately 50 UH-60 and HH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, 4 CH-47 Chinooks, 25 AH-64 Apaches, more than 1,800 vehicles, and 2,000 Soldiers.

It takes a highly experienced and well-coordinated ‘Team of Teams’ to bring Army combat power like this to Europe. In fact, an operation of this magnitude and complexity represents a tremendous opportunity to enhance the global deployment and distribution capabilities of the US, its allies, its partners in commercial industry, and regional port authority professionals.

The ‘Team of Teams’ supporting Atlantic Resolve includes the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC) and the Military Sealift Command (MSC), which represent the Army and Navy components of US Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM), respectively. Within SDDC, the 598th Transportation Brigade (TBDE), headquartered in Sembach, Germany, executes mission command of seaport operations in Europe, to include those in support of Atlantic Resolve. The 598th accomplishes this mission working closely with the 21st Theater Sustainment Command (TSC), the senior sustainment organization in Europe, responsible for the onward movement and integration of US Army forces across the theater.

During July, the 101st CAB deployed the majority of its Atlantic Resolve equipment to Europe through seaports in La Rochelle, France, and Alexandroupoli, Greece. Notably, both ports presented new opportunities for the transportation and movement professionals of the 598th, 21st TSC, and MSC. The MSC-contracted vessel, M/V ARC Endurance, brought the 101st CAB’s materiel to both European ports within a span of only 14 days, delivering the initial portion of the CAB’s gear to La Rochelle on July 7th, followed by the discharge of the CAB’s remaining equipment in Alexandroupoli on July 21st.

“This iteration of Atlantic Resolve was unique in a number of ways,” said COL Joshua D. Hirsch, 598th TBDE Commander. “For example, this was the first time since the 1960’s that the US Army had used the port in La Rochelle to move materiel on this scale. This required the 598th team to establish new partnerships and relationships with commercial industry, port authorities, and our French military allies to ensure a successful operation. The result was extremely positive. The port operation not only brought the 101st CAB effectively and safely into La Rochelle, we also worked very well with the French logisticians and transporters and built a great foundation that will benefit us all going forward.”

A UH-60 belonging to 101st Combat Aviation Brigade is offloaded from the ARC Endurance at the Port of Alexandroupoli, Greece. The 101st CAB is deployed for nine months as a regionally allocated force supporting Atlantic Resolve, focused on strengthening bonds between allies and partners, increasing interoperability and building readiness. The ARC Endurance is the largest vessel to ever dock at the Alexandroupoli port. The vessel discharge operation is coordinated by the 598th Transportation Brigade, SDDC. The onward movement and integration of the 101st materiel into the European theater is led by the 21st Theater Sustainment Command. US Army photo by SGT Jesse R. Pilgrim/Released.

LTC William Prince, Jr, 838th Transportation Battalion Commander, a subordinate unit of the 598th, directed operations at the port itself and reinforced the positive outcome of the effort. “French logisticians, transporters and military police, along with civilian port leaders in La Rochelle, were critical to our success. We learned new ways to communicate and increased our interoperability with our French partners across the board. This is a highly capable port and the French team was extremely professional.”

At Alexandroupoli, as part of ongoing efforts to deepen the US-Greece military relationship, the US Army and US Navy had removed a sunken dredger called the “Olga” from the port in 2019. As allied and partner nations continue training in the region, Alexandroupoli and ports in Greece will be of significant importance for the flow of personnel and equipment into Europe.

“We had conducted successful operations with our teammates in Greece during the prior two years,” Hirsch said. “Over time, we’ve made significant investments in improving the port, and our ability to bring the 101st CAB into Alexandroupoli reinforced our relationship with the Hellenic Armed Forces and the local port authorities, and is evidence of a very strong Greece-US partnership.”

LTC Scott F. Wyatt, 839th Transportation Battalion Commander, also highlighted the importance of the port. “Really, what we’re doing is showcasing two different things,” said Wyatt. “One is the ability of US forces to project power throughout Europe and into Eastern Europe particularly. The second thing we are doing is to showcase the abilities of the port at Alexandroupoli. It’s a very historic port and a very capable port.”

Expanding partnerships at ports like La Rochelle and Alexandroupoli, not only supports operations like Atlantic Resolve but also furthers the larger, strategic goals of the US and its allies.

“One of our objectives is to expand the range of ports which can support the deployment of US, allied, and partner forces in Europe,” said Hirsch. “We want to diversify the number of ports we can work with. This provides additional options for land force commanders and is critical to enhancing the strategic readiness of Army forces and to our ability to maneuver in the theater. Both La Rochelle and Alexandroupoli reflect this effort.”

In support of this goal, the US regularly assesses numerous European ports for their ability to support the reception, staging, and onward movement of military units. Coordination with NATO allies and partners to use these ports maintains access for large-scale movements and helps identify infrastructure improvements that expand military mobility as a whole.

The 101st Combat Aviation Brigade will now move from the ports in La Rochelle and Alexandroupoli to train alongside NATO and partner nation forces across the theater.

In addition to the complexity of the port operations themselves, the ‘Team of Teams’ also successfully adhered to a range of COVID-19 health and safety restrictions throughout the operation. “Every aspect of our operation is conducted with COVID prevention measures foremost in our minds,” said Hirsch. “Our Soldiers from the US are tested and enter quarantine prior to arriving in Europe and we adhere to all of the COVID-related restrictions in our host-nation countries. We realize the seriousness of the COVID environment and we are committed to being good and COVID-safe guests.”

More information about the ‘Team of Teams’ and Atlantic Resolve can be found at:

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