The US Army’s 598th Transportation Brigade Coordinates Complex Port Operations Across Europe in Support of Exercises Atlantic Resolve and DEFENDER-Europe 20
The US Army has brought units from the United States to Europe since 2014 as part of a military exercise called ‘Atlantic Resolve.’ Today, the exercise typically involves the movement of approximately 6,000 US Soldiers who conduct training and operations throughout Europe in nine-month increments. Although a military exercise on this scale has many specific objectives, Atlantic Resolve works to increase the readiness of US Army units to respond to a wide range of potential threats, while also enhancing the Army’s ability to operate alongside European partner military forces.
The Department of Defense (DOD) has conducted five iterations of Atlantic Resolve, making the exercise a cornerstone of the US commitment to the security of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Europe. One of the most critical aspects of Atlantic Resolve involves the transport of thousands of equipment items from the United States to European ports. Given the sheer amount of military equipment necessary to conduct global exercises like this, the overwhelming majority of the Army’s equipment moves by cargo vessel. Coordinating a task of this scope involves a team of US Army port operations experts who understand the unique requirements of moving tanks, armored vehicles, helicopters, and support equipment around the globe, and who also work effectively with commercial carriers and international partners at port terminals in nations all across Europe.
For Atlantic Resolve, coordinating these European port operations is the responsibility of the 598th Transportation Brigade, a subordinate unit of the US Army’s Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC). The 598th is headquartered in Sembach, Germany, and includes two battalions; the 838th Transportation Battalion, headquartered at Kleber Kaserne, Kaiserslautern, Germany; and the 839th Transportation Battalion, headquartered at Camp Darby, Livorno, Italy.
One important and unique characteristic of the 598th is the composition of its personnel. The brigade is made up of US Army Soldiers, Department of the Army civilian employees, and local national employees from Germany, Greece, Italy, Turkey, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. The brigade’s diverse transportation workforce is a particular strength given the global nature of its mission. Although the Atlantic Resolve exercise took place in Europe, the 598th is also responsible for coordinating Army port operations in support of US Africa Command (USAFRICOM) all across the African theater of operations.
“The skill, experience, and diversity of the 598th team is absolutely key to our success,” said COL Jin H. Pak, the 598th’s Commander. “We have an optimal combination of Soldiers and Army civilians, along with transportation professionals from the host-nations where we operate. It results in a great mixture of talent that allows us to bring together a Soldier’s perspective, an experienced Army civilian perspective, and the perspective of our European partners. We couldn’t do our mission, or build the kind of mutually beneficial relationships we have with commercial carriers and terminal operators in Europe, without each part of our team.”
Major port operations for the most recent iteration of Atlantic Resolve, which took place primarily during the September – November 2019 timeframe, presented a particularly challenging set of missions for the 598th. As participating Army units deployed from the US into European ports, they brought with them approximately 85 Abrams tanks, 135 Bradley fighting vehicles, 80 helicopters, and 2,000 pieces of aviation support equipment. In addition to the sheer amount of combat power, the Army used a diverse range of commercial ports and terminal operators to support the exercise.
“One of our most important objectives is to increase the number of ports and nations we can partner with to accomplish exercises like Atlantic Resolve. We refer to this as ‘port diversification,’ and it allows senior military leaders in Europe a wider range of options to support our NATO and European partners, “added Pak. “This last iteration was a real demonstration of our ability to do this successfully. For example, we were able to bring significant amounts of combat power through commercial ports in Vlissingen, Netherlands, in Riga, Latvia, and in Volos, Greece. This is really the first time, in support of Atlantic Resolve, that we’ve been able to bring equipment on this scale into these ports. That means we’re building new relationships with our European allies that will benefit us all over the long term.”
LTC Scott F. Wyatt, 839th Transportation Battalion Commander, agreed. His team was responsible for coordinating Atlantic Resolve port operations across southern Europe, which included Army units arriving in Greece.
“This operation is really important for two reasons,” said Wyatt. “One, it enhances the partnership we have between Greece and the United States. And two, it also shows the capability of Greece to perform an operation that supports both NATO and US European Command (USEUCOM) power projection objectives.”
Overall, the 598th coordinated nearly simultaneous operations at eight different ports in seven different host nations in support of Atlantic Resolve, representing the largest European port operation in support of an exercise since the Cold War. In addition to the Netherlands, Latvia, and Greece, the brigade oversaw exercise-related port operations in Poland, Belgium, and Romania.
“Atlantic Resolve demonstrates how we support our allies and our ability to successfully deploy forces,” said Pak. “In addition to the 598th, we coordinated very closely with other Army commands to include the 21st Theater Sustainment Command, 16th Sustainment Brigade, the 647th Expeditionary Terminal Operations Element, the 1181st Deployment Distribution Support Battalion (Detachment 5)—and the host nation’s Ministry of Defense and port officials. An operation like this truly requires a ‘team of teams’ approach to be successful.”
As large as the Atlantic Resolve exercise was, the 598th is currently supporting an even larger deployment of US Army forces to Europe, in support of the exercise DEFENDER-Europe 20. DEFENDER-Europe 20 will be conducted in five phases, beginning in February and continuing through August 2020. In total, approximately 37,000 US and Allied Soldiers are scheduled to participate. Just as importantly for the 598th, more than 20,000 pieces of equipment will be shipped from the US to Europe, through eight ports in seven partner nations. DEFENDER-Europe 20 represents the single largest deployment of US forces for an exercise in Europe in the last 25 years.
“DEFENDER-Europe 20 is an opportunity for us to build and demonstrate the strategic readiness of the Army, and will validate the capacity of SDDC, the 598th, and our ‘team of teams’ to effectively bring division-sized, combat-capable forces from home-stations in the US to ports in the European Theater,” said LTC William Prince, Jr., 838th Transportation Battalion Commander. “DEFENDER-Europe 20 is the culmination of what we, as a brigade, have been working toward for the better part of a year.”
The 598th is one of five active component US Army Transportation Brigades assigned to SDDC, the Army’s service component command of US Transportation Command. In addition to the 598th operating in Europe and Africa, SDDC’s other Brigades are headquartered in the continental United States, Hawaii, and Kuwait.
“SDDC’s ongoing purpose is move, deploy and sustain US Armed Forces to deliver readiness and lethality at speed,” emphasized Mr. Brian Rivera, Deputy Commander of the 598th. “It’s a very unique command, with a specialized skill set, that provides a key power projection capability, by coordinating strategic surface movement in support of US forces all around the globe.”
More information about SDDC, Atlantic Resolve and DEFENDER-Europe 20 can be found at:
By 598th Transportation Brigade, Public Affairs