MONS, Belgium – For more than six years U.S. Army Europe has shown its unwavering commitment and solidarity towards the Alliance with land based and U.S.-led efforts through Atlantic Resolve.
Teams from the United States regularly deploy in support of Atlantic Resolve, which is overseen by the 1st Infantry Division (Forward), a regionally aligned headquarters based in Poznan, Poland. There are approximately 6,000 U.S. Soldiers supporting exercises and operations in Allied nations across the European continent.
Most recently Alaska Army National Guard Soldiers assigned to the AKNG's 297th Regional Support Group deployed to Poland on May 13, 2020 in support of Atlantic Resolve. More than 80 Soldiers deployed and will provide essential sustainment functions to the rotational forces training in Poland. There tasking will include base operation support throughout Ally Poland, providing facilities management assistance for dining, lodging, gyms and laundry amenities.
The modification and, in some cases, reduction of exercises is a precautionary measure, and does not affect the ability of our forces to respond to threats, now or in the future
"When we are deployed, we will all learn how our job fits into an Army service component command and I think that our Soldiers will learn a lot about fine-tuning their leadership and professional skills in a joint environment," said Alaska Army National Guard Colonel Matthew Schell, commander of the 297th RSG. "We know that the COVID-19 pandemic is going to change the way we react with each other and the Polish Army during our deployment. We will continue to look out for the safety of our Soldiers through social distancing, masks and hand washing."
Alaska Army National Guard Soldiers assigned to the AKNG's 297th Regional Support Group board their plane on their way to a deployment to Poland at Ted Stevens International's Kulis airfield May 13, 2020. More than 80 Soldiers assigned to the 297th RSG departed from the Ted Steven International's Kulis airfield on May 13 for a deployment to Poland in order to provide support for U.S. Army Europe's Atlantic Resolve mission. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sergeant Seth LaCount/Released)
In addition to continued Atlantic Resolve efforts and despite modifications to multiple exercises across the European continent due to COVID-19, U.S. Army Europe and the Polish Ministry of Defence announced that they would move forward with exercise Allied Spirit, a DEFENDER-Europe 20 linked exercise.
"The health of our forces is vitally important to maintaining readiness to deter and defend our homelands. We've implemented prudent measures to reduce the exposure and transmission of coronavirus to or from our forces, family members, and home stations," said Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Tod D. Wolters. "The modification and, in some cases, reduction of exercises is a precautionary measure, and does not affect the ability of our forces to respond to threats, now or in the future."
DEFENDER-Europe 20 was designed to support the enhancement of Alliance-wide readiness and capability to deploy and respond decisively against any adversary in a multinational, multi-domain, high-intensity conflict. In response to COVID-19, DEFENDER-Europe 20 was modified in size and scope in March when movement from the U.S. to Europe was stopped and some linked exercises were cancelled.
At the time deployment from the U.S. to Europe was halted, more than ninety percent of the equipment tasked for DEFENDER-Europe 20 had been loaded on aircraft or ships bound for Europe. In total, over 6,000 U.S. Soldiers and 3,000 pieces of equipment arrived in Europe, and over 9,000 vehicles were moved from Army Prepositioned Stocks to training areas in Germany. Overall, despite the adjustment to the exercise due to COVID-19, many of the strategic readiness objectives were met.
U.S. Army Europe is planning additional exercises over the next few months. These exercises will utilise many of the original DEFENDER-Europe 20 training objectives to enhance readiness and interoperability between Allied and partner militaries.