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14 Aug 20. France to deploy fighter jets in eastern Mediterranean. France has decided to send two fighter jets in the eastern Mediterranean region amid escalating tensions between Greece and Turkey.
The deployment will include two Rafale fighter jets, as well as a naval frigate Lafayette.
French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted in French: “I have decided to temporarily reinforce the French military presence in the eastern Mediterranean in the coming days in cooperation with European partners, including Greece.”
The two warplanes and the ship had already arrived at the Greek island of Crete and participated in joint exercises, Reuters reported, citing Greek defence sources.
Greece and Turkey are embroiled in a dispute over oil and gas exploration in contested waters.
France has already urged Turkey to suspend hydrocarbon exploration activities.
According to the news agency, French President Emmanuel Macron and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis also discussed the situation over the phone.
The simmering tensions between Greece and Turkey recently escalated after Turkish seismic vessel Oruc Reis sailed through the disputed waters being guarded by naval ships.
Greece also deployed warships to monitor the Turkish movement, an Al Jazeera report said.
Developed by Dassault Aviation, Rafale jets are multirole fighter aircraft. Recently, India received five Rafale aircraft at the Ambala Air Force Station (AFS) as part of a larger order of 36 jets. (Source: airforce-technology.com)
14 Aug 20. After months of haggling, Lockheed moves on German air defense bid. Lockheed Martin and MBDA Deutschland have submitted another bid for Germany’s next-generation air defense system, following negotiations throughout the summer that some observers said nearly tanked the project.
The “updated proposal,” as the companies called it in a joint statement Friday, presumably will find smooth sailing in the Defence Ministry’s upcoming analysis. That is because government officials and company executives already went through extensive discussions in the past few months to iron out sticking points left unresolved in previous bids and re-bids.
“In the last months we made progress in further detailing the Integrated Master Schedule, relevant specifications as well as performance simulations to de-risk the future contract,” Thomas Gottschild, managing director at MBDA Deutschland, said in the statement.
But there are no guarantees, especially when it comes to the famously circuitous Taktisches Luftverteidigungssystem, or TLVS. The program grew out of the now-defunct Medium Extended Air Defense System, which the Pentagon helped fund. Germany wants the weapon to replace its fleet of Patriot batteries.
The German Defence Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The government in Berlin is under the gun to deliver military programs on time and on budget, especially now that the ministry wants to keep up defense spending despite the economic blow of the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, officials want to place greater financial liability on the contractors in case things go awry.
That approach is infused throughout the TLVS contractual categories of “risk” and “terms and conditions,” industry officials previously said, though details are under strict wraps.
Executives previously argued the proposed risk distribution is unsuitable for a development-heavy program like TLVS, making Lockheed especially wary of pursuing the deal after all. At the same time, the American defense giant finally needs to sell the program to a government customer if it wants the advertised revolution in missile defense equipment to actually happen.
The envisioned weapon will feature a 360-degree sensing and shooting capability, which means operators no longer need to anticipate from which direction aerial threats will likely approach, as was the case with the sectored Patriot system.
“TLVS will transform Germany’s defense capabilities and set an important precedent in how neighboring nations address persistent global threats for years to come,” Lockheed and MBDA claimed in their joint statement.
The German parliament, currently in recess, will have to approve the government’s acquisition plan for TLVS — that is, if the industry consortium’s newest submission makes the ministry’s cut. (Source: Defense News)
14 Aug 20. Europe tests the waters for a stronger defence policy. EU leaders must agree on where threats to the continent originate. For the past four years, the EU has trumpeted its plans to invest in defence. This summer’s budget negotiations were a test of its ambitions. Now that the dust is settling, where is EU defence headed? Two main defence items have made it into the EU’s upcoming seven-year budget. One is the European defence fund, with €7bn to fund research and co-finance jointly developed military equipment and technology. The other is a €1.5bn military mobility project, with measures to facilitate the movement of equipment across the EU by upgrading infrastructure, such as bridges, and simplifying customs procedures. However, defence has not emerged unscathed from the traditional EU budget battles, which were aggravated this year by Covid-19 and the loss of the UK’s future contributions. Not all were convinced by the initiatives on the table. Central and eastern European states argued that the European Commission’s ambitions would undermine Nato. Nordic countries with defence industry links to the US charged that the aim was more to help western European companies win market share than to turn the EU into a more capable defence actor. EU optimists can nonetheless focus on the fact that by spending money at all, and for the first time in its history, the EU is breaking two taboos. It is entering an area, national security, from which many member states have long tried to exclude it. It is also moving from being a purely soft power actor and trying to equip itself to defend its geopolitical interests. Sceptics lament that, while the new budget has established the EU’s right to be more involved in defence, member states are setting it up to fail. When the commission first calculated how much money it would need to strengthen the EU’s defence industrial base, it hoped for €11.5bn, almost 40 per cent more than it has received. Military mobility, hailed as a symbol of EU-Nato co-operation, suffered an even larger cut from the initial proposal of €5.8bn. The problem with these interpretations, however, is that they focus on the EU’s internal politics, not its place in the world. Tensions are rising in Europe’s neighbourhood, as seen in France’s decision this week to boost its military presence in the eastern Mediterranean amid a Greek-Turkish stand-off. The US is bucking its role as guarantor of European security. Polling shows citizens are looking to the EU for protection. A window of opportunity opened in 2016, with the dual shock of the US election and the UK’s Brexit referendum. Around that time Emmanuel Macron, now France’s president, and Ursula von der Leyen, now commission president, declared that this was the era of “strategic autonomy”, of a “superpower EU” ready to defend its citizens and its territory. The vision of strategic autonomy turned out to be too nebulous to unify member states around it. Now governments have launched a so-called “strategic compass” process, to conduct a joint threat analysis and build consensus on what the EU — or, more likely, smaller coalitions of states — should be able to do. They must find agreement on where threats primarily originate from — the east, the south, Asia, the Arctic, cyber space, outer space? How do these rank in comparison to the threat of, say, climate change or global pandemics? What capabilities are needed to tackle them, and should they be bought abroad or developed in Europe? What should be the division of labour between Nato and the EU? How should defence and security considerations inform core policies, such as migration, data protection, research funding or the export of (dual use) technologies? Ideally, the process will force member states to prioritise. The risk is that they will end up prioritising everything. But discussing their defence outlook in a confidential setting should at least help to forge a shared understanding of threats among governments. A similar effect can already be observed at a lower level. In the past four years, a vocal EU defence community consisting of industry experts, think-tankers, government officials, national legislators and MEPs has formed, under the critical eye of transparency watchdogs. In the early weeks of coronavirus, this community cautioned against uncoordinated national defence spending cuts, pointing out the security risks of the pandemic. With the establishment of a commission directorate-general for defence industry and space, this community will now have interlocutors in Brussels. A bit more expertise, some more money, a few more high-level discussions — the EU is moving, slowly. The hope is that it will agree on the direction of travel soon. (Source: FT.com)
13 Aug 20. Hungary plunks down $1bn for new air defenses. The Hungarian and U.S. governments have announced a $1bn deal to equip the European country with new air-defense weaponry.
The sale includes the Raytheon-made Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile-Extended Range missile, of which Hungary requested some 60 copies in May through the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program. According to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, that portion of the deal is worth $230 million.
Another transaction type, called a Direct Commercial Sale, accounts for the rest of the money, according to a statement posted on the website of the U.S. Embassy in Budapest. Such sales are negotiated privately between customer countries and American defense contractors, meaning the U.S. government has little involvement besides approving an export license.
Exactly what the DCS portion of the deal entails is unclear, though the embassy statement and Hungarian media note that all the equipment would go toward replacing the country’s Soviet-era gear with the NASAMS short- and medium-range air-defense system made by Norway’s Kongsberg. Raytheon’s AMRAAM-ER missiles are the interceptors in that configuration.
U.S. Ambassador David Cornstein, a New York businessman and admirer of Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban’s policies, and Hungarian Defense Minister Tibor Benkő lauded the weapons deal Wednesday.
“We commend the Hungarian government’s strong commitment to continue modernizing Hungary’s military through the acquisition of the world’s most advanced mid-range air defense system, which will enhance Hungary’s ability to provide collective and self-defense,” the statement reads.
EU member Hungary, with its far-right government, is under pressure from other members of the bloc for what they say is a steady slide toward anti-democratic rule. The country has been on a military spending spree lately, with Germany’s Krauss-Maffei Wegmann in line to supply dozens of Leopard-2 tanks. (Source: Defense News)
13 Aug 20. Moving US F-16s from Germany will ripple far outside the Black Sea region. When Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced July 29 the movement of almost 12,000 troops out of Germany, the impact on the U.S. Air Force was seemingly minor.
One F-16 squadron, the 480th Fighter Squadron, would transfer from Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany to Aviano Air Base in Italy, which already hosts two F-16 squadrons. Meanwhile, KC-135 tankers from the 100th Air Refueling Wing and CV-22 Ospreys operated by the 352nd Special Operations Wing would remain at RAF Mildenhall, England, instead of transferring to Spangdahlem.
At the time, Esper said the shift of F-16s to Italy would “[move] them closer to the Black Sea region and [make those forces] better capable of conducting dynamic force employments and rotational deployments to NATO’s southeastern flank.”
However, the strategic and geopolitical implications of the changes could be even more considerable than first thought and play into a range of areas from Germany’s fighter contest to the way the U.S. Air Force trains for war, former Defense Department and Air Force officials told Defense News.
Very little is known about when the transfer of forces will take place, how many airmen and their families will be impacted, or how much it will ultimately cost.
“Details for the implementation are still being worked. Some changes will take place soon. Some will take several years,” said Maj. Selena Rodts, a spokeswoman for U.S. Air Forces in Europe. “These are complex issues and take time, including securing Congressional funding to enable the move and to review agreements with prospective host nations to secure the necessary legal frameworks. We are committed to taking the appropriate steps to work through the changes with service members and their families and with our [host nation] counterparts.”
During a July 30 interview with Defense News, outgoing Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein expressed support for the planned force structure changes, and said that keeping mobility forces at Mildenhall and transferring the F-16 from Spangdahlem to Aviano would ultimately give commanders in the region more flexibility. Goldfein retired from the Air Force Aug. 6.
“That plan was put in front of the joint chiefs,” he said. “All of us had a chance to take a look at it, comment on it, give advice to [Gen. Tod Wolters, U.S. European Command head] as he went forward. And quite frankly I think it does all of the things Secretary Esper laid out at his press conference.”
Goldfein has a personal interest in the changes. From 2004 to 2006, he served as commander of Spangdahlem’s 52nd Fighter Wing, which includes the 480th Fighter Squadron and its support functions, much of which will likely transfer to Aviano.
However, Goldfein was adamant that the move will not leave Spangdahlem vulnerable to closing.
“When you take a look at the amount of travel that we’re required to do to be a global military with global reach, you have to have both Ramstein and Spangdahlem,” he said. “It has to do with fuel capacity, it has to do with ramp capacity, it has to do with maintenance capacity, so I think the future of Spangdahlem is absolutely solid and not at risk at all.”
Once the F-16 squadron departs Spangdahlem, the base will have some excess infrastructure. That might be a good thing, said Frank Gorenc, a retired four-star general and former commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe.
In a future conflict war with a technologically advanced nation such as Russia and China, the U.S. Air Force believes its best chance at ensuring the survival of its people and aircraft is by distributing them across many operating locations — a concept it calls agile combat employment. The extra ramp space and hangars at Spangdahlem could prime it to be critical shock absorber in a major conflict, giving the U.S. Air Force additional capacity to fly in reinforcements from U.S. air bases to defend NATO’s Eastern flank.
“We need that infrastructure. And for deterrence and support to the alliance, particularly in NATO, the fundamental concept is that we would reinforce from North America. Well, you have to have a place to go to do reinforcement to enough of a level that would be deterrence enhancing,” Gorenc said. “Maintaining adequate force structure is a direct flap at Putin’s strategy at not allowing NATO to get consensus on any kind of reinforcement.”
In 2019, Spangdahlem was the setting for one of the Air Force’s major agile combat exercises, Operation Rapid Forge, which involved a two week deployment of F-15E Strike Eagles from the 4th Fighter Wing at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina.
With the 480th Fighter Squadron continuing F-16 operations at Spangdahlem, F-15E pilots and maintainers lived and worked out of tents and temporary shelters for the duration of the exercise. But after the transfer of F-16s from the base, the installation could potentially play a more permanent role as a hub for wargames and short-term deployments.
“The Spangdahlem base is a spectacular facility,” Gorenc said. “We have made a big investment into Spangdahlem. It’s a base that can accept a lot of force, and I think as an installation it’s needed more than the fighter squadron, to be honest.”
What does this mean for Germany’s fighter contest?
As the Air Force deliberates the future of the 52nd Fighter Wing, one major question is whether its 52d Munitions Maintenance Group — which sustains and stores tactical nuclear weapons on behalf of NATO — will remain at Spangdahlem or relocate with other elements of the wing.
Should that mission move out of Germany, it could portend some unseen ramifications for the NATO alliance, said Rachel Ellehuus, who was the Pentagon’s principal director of European and NATO policy from 2015 to 2018 and is currently with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Germany is embroiled in a national debate over the NATO “nuclear sharing” doctrine, which calls for the country to host B61 nuclear bombs at Büchel Air Base, located about 50 minutes from Spangdahlem. The 52nd Munitions Maintenance Group’s 702 Munitions Support Squadron is collocated at Büchel and maintains about 20 B61s which, if authorized by Germany and the United States, could be launched from a German air force Tornado jet.
In April, German defense officials acknowledged a proposal to split its multi-billion dollar fighter buy between the two competitors, with a potential purchase of 93 Eurofighter Typhoons as well as 45 Boeing-made F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and EA-18G Growlers. The Super Hornets and Growlers would be used to carry on the nuclear-sharing mission.
But removing U.S. Air Force F-16s from Germany could weaken the case for buying American fighters and hosting nuclear bombs, Ellehuus said.
“When we sell somebody U.S. aircraft or kit, we always make the case you’re not just buying just the plane but the joint training and long-term relationship. You lose that argument, in a way,” she said.
Given the political tensions between the U.S. and Germany, the pullout could potentially reinforce arguments from those who argue a European fighter, not an American one, is the correct option if the nuclear mission is no longer needed.
“It doesn’t have to spell the end of the nuclear mission for Germany, but it will add more fuel to the fire to those arguing that Germany should withdraw from the nuclear mission,” Ellehuus said. “They will see this as yet another reason the U.S. can’t be trusted and that a European solution is needed to follow on Tornado.” (Source: Defense News)
13 Aug 20. France stokes Turkey tensions by sending naval vessels to waters off Cyprus. Paris backs Greece in row with Ankara over oil and gas exploration in disputed area. Tensions between Nato allies France and Turkey have sharply intensified after Paris deployed naval vessels to the eastern Mediterranean in support of Greece, which is embroiled in a confrontation with Ankara over oil and gas exploration in disputed waters off Cyprus. Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Greece’s prime minister, warned in a television address on Wednesday night of “the risk of an accident with so many military assets gathered in an enclosed space [the eastern Mediterranean]”. Recommended AnalysisThe Big Read Turkey fuels regional power game over Mediterranean gas reserves The spark that ignited the latest flare-up was Turkey’s decision to pursue its claim to possible offshore oil and gas reserves by sending the survey ship Oruc Reis into disputed waters -accompanied by Turkish warships — on an exploration mission. France, which has already clashed with Turkey over the two countries’ support for opposing sides in the Libyan civil war, demanded that Turkey stop its “unilateral” oil and gas exploration in disputed waters.
French President Emmanuel Macron decided to “temporarily reinforce” France’s military presence “in order to better monitor the situation in this part of the Mediterranean and to ensure that international law is respected”, the Elysée Palace announced after a call between Mr Macron and Mr Mitsotakis. Two of France’s Rafale warplanes will be based on the Greek island of Crete. It will also keep two ships in the area, the helicopter carrier Tonnerre that is taking aid to Lebanon after the fertiliser explosion at the port of Beirut, and the frigate La Fayette that has been on a naval exercise with Greece and has sailed from Larnaca in Cyprus. In a veiled reference to France, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: “No foreign nation, company or ship will be allowed without permission into our maritime areas. We see provocations by a country that has no coastline in the east Mediterranean pushing Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration to take wrong steps.” Germany said it was “very concerned about the latest tensions”. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said Berlin was in touch with both sides, but added it was “urgently necessary” that the Turkish and Greek governments talked to each other directly. Greece raised the stakes in a long-running dispute with Turkey over seabed drilling rights by reaching agreement with Egypt on delineating their respective maritime zones south of Crete — an area partially claimed by Turkey which signed a similar deal with Libya earlier this year.
Mr Erdogan, who has increasingly been flexing his country’s military muscles across the Mediterranean, north Africa and the Middle East, said on Thursday he would speak by phone with both Ms Merkel and Charles Michel, European Council president. The division of the island of Cyprus between an internationally recognised EU member state and a Turkish-backed republic in the north has long poisoned relations between Athens and Ankara. Turkey is the only country in the world to recognise the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. “Turkey is not the one escalating tensions in the Mediterranean,” Mr Erdogan added. “Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration are trying to appropriate Turkish Cypriots’ hydrocarbon rights.” Mr Mitsotakis’s hastily arranged speech came as reports circulated in Athens that a Greek navy warship shadowing the Oruc Reis almost collided with a Turkish navy vessel on Tuesday. The Greek defence ministry did not confirm the reports. The Greek prime minister also stressed that Greece was ready to resume talks on exclusive economic zones in the area. “We are vigilantly looking forward to good sense eventually prevailing in our neighbouring country so that a dialogue can be restarted.” Turkish seismic research vessel Oruc Reis © Murad Sezer/Reuters A French Rafale fighter at Souda air base, Crete © Hellenic National Defence/AP The latest move by Paris, in support of calls by Greece and Cyprus for stronger EU action against Turkey, comes ahead of an extraordinary meeting of EU foreign ministers called for Friday, at which the eastern Mediterranean will top the agenda. Sanctions imposed by the EU on Turkey over the dispute have so far been largely symbolic.
EU foreign ministers last month agreed to try to lower tensions with Turkey — but also tasked Josep Borrell, the bloc’s foreign policy chief, to come up with options for action if Ankara pressed ahead with Mediterranean drilling. Mr Borrell met Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkish foreign minister, last week in Malta and had an “open and frank exchange on EU-Turkey relations and on the situation in the eastern Mediterranean”, according to the EU. Mr Cavusoglu had warned last month that Turkey would retaliate if the EU imposed new sanctions on Ankara. Other EU member states have so far resisted tougher action for fear of further damaging the already troubled relationship with Ankara, which remains important to Europe economically, on counter-terrorism and on Middle Eastern security. France has found it similarly difficult in its push for tougher action against Turkey within the Nato military alliance. (Source: FT.com)
12 Aug 20. U.S. Soldiers Arrive in Poland With COVID-19 Protocols in Place. Soldiers with 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, are participating in Phase II of Exercise Defender-Europe 20 at Drawsko Pomorskie Training Area, Poland. The unit, based at Fort Hood, Texas, arrived in Poland July 16.
“We are here executing a deployment readiness exercise,” said Army Lt. Col. Ron Sprang, the battalion commander. “We will execute a gunnery skills table … to improve our lethality as an organization.”
The “Iron Horse” brigade is scheduled to conduct gunneries and live fire exercises at various lower echelons, up to the company level, to enhance its capabilities. The training will culminate with a combined arms live-fire exercise.
“We are excited to interact with both the Polish military and other American units here supporting Defender 20,” said Army Maj. Brandon Kennedy, battalion operations officer.
The training will allow the U.S. forces to integrate with their Polish-NATO Allies.
“Interoperability is key,” Sprang said. “We all come from different nations with different equipment and backgrounds. It is critical that we develop skills in order to fight together and build that teamwork and cohesion so we can integrate our systems, our personnel, and be able to communicate effectively so we can fight as a bigger, more powerful team against anyone who will stand against us.”
Service members implemented a thorough COVID-19 screening protocol, which included daily screening up to three times through temperature and symptoms checks, along with restriction-of-movement measures. All soldiers will be tested upon arriving at the training area, with periodic checks throughout training.
“We exercised mitigation measures long before we arrived here in Europe,” Kennedy said. “We had these measures in place not only for these events upcoming, but to also continue to protect our families and our forces back at Fort Hood.”
Defender-Europe 20 is designed as a deployment exercise to build strategic readiness in support of the U.S. National Defense Strategy and NATO deterrence objectives. In response to COVID-19, the exercise was modified in size and scope.
Phase I of the modified Defender-Europe 20 was linked to Exercise Allied Spirit, which took place at Drawsko Pomorskie Training Area, Poland, June 5-19, with about 6,000 U.S. and Polish soldiers. In Phase II of the modified exercise, a U.S.-based combined arms battalion is conducting an Emergency Deployment Readiness Exercise to Europe that began July 14 and ends Aug. 22. (Source: US DoD)
11 Aug 20. Serbia considers buying Chinese missiles despite US warning. Serbia is considering buying a modern Chinese air defense missile system, the Serbian president said Tuesday, as the United States warned that such deals with Beijing could jeopardize the Balkan country’s proclaimed European Union membership goals.
Aleksandar Vucic said that “we were thinking, but we have not yet purchased” the FK-3 system — the export version of the Chinese last-generation, medium range HQ-22 anti-aircraft system.
Serbia, which has been beefing up its military mainly with Russian aircraft and armored vehicles, last month received six Chinese CH-92A attack and reconnaissance drones. That made Serbia the first European country to deploy the Chinese unmanned aerial vehicles.
The U.S. Embassy in Belgrade said that “procuring military and defense equipment is a sovereign decision. However, governments should understand the short- and long-term risks and costs involved in doing business with Chinese companies.”
“Procurement choices should reflect Serbia’s stated policy goal of greater European integration,” an embassy statement said. “Alternative vendors which are not beholden to authoritarian regimes offer equipment that is both capable of meeting Serbia’s defense need and comparable in quality and cost.”
Reacting to the statement, Vucic said: “Whenever we decide to buy something, somebody has something against it.”
He claimed that the FK-3 anti-aircraft system is not on the list of U.S. sanctions against China and that the purchase depends on the financial terms of the deal.
“We will make the decision as a free and sovereign country,” Vucic said.
The Russian and Chinese arming of Serbia, as well as their growing political and economic influence in the Balkan state, is being watched with unease in the West and among Serbia’s neighbors.
Tensions are growing in the Balkans, which went through a devastating civil war in the 1990s. NATO intervened in Serbia to stop a bloody Serb crackdown against Kosovo Albanian separatists in 1999.
Serbia, which formally wants to join the EU, declared military neutrality in 2006 and joined NATO’s Partnership for Peace outreach program. Its populist leadership is against membership in the Western military alliance although most of Serbia’s neighbors are within NATO.
Asked about the latest arming of Serbia with the modern Chinese air defense system, a NATO official who spoke on customary condition of anonymity said “defense procurement is a national decision.”
“Serbia has the right to freely choose its political and security arrangements. NATO and Serbia are close partners and we are committed to strengthening our partnership with Serbia, while fully respecting its policy of neutrality,” the official said. (Source: Defense News)
11 Aug 20. Sustainment Battalion Executes Unique Mission, Supports USAREUR. The Defense Department’s top priorities have not changed since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic: protection of the force and families, safeguarding of mission capabilities or readiness, and closely working with partners and allies to fight COVID-19 head-on.
The 83rd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 7th Mission Support Command, in conjunction with other United States Army Europe units and the USO, has partnered to safely introduce Soldiers to the European theater. The mission, known as Task Force Willkommen, began in early March led by the 39th Movement Control Battalion.
“The 83rd took over the mission June 15,” said Maj. Jayson Cummins, the task force support operations officer. “Task Force Willkommen is a group [set up] to facilitate the in-processing of personnel coming in from CONUS.”
Units involved in the collaboration include United States Army Europe, 21st Theater Sustainment Command, 7th Mission Support Command and the 83rd CSSB, to name a few.
“There’s also the 1st HRSC, the 30th Medical Brigade, the 21st STB and our partners at the 16th Sustainment Brigade,” Cummins said. “It takes a lot of coordination and deconfliction on quantities, amounts and timelines.”
Cummins said the process, from the moment a Soldier lands in Germany, takes approximately 14 days until they are safely pushed to their next assignment.
“We identify the Soldiers we are taking into possession, we get their luggage, put them on buses and they are transported over here to Rhine Ordnance Barracks,” Cummins said while talking about the Deployment Processing Center located within ROB. “The first night at ROB, they are assigned a PHA or a housing area, and they are hard-quarantined for three days.”
One of the first orders of business during the process is a COVID test. Results typically come back in 24 to 48 hours, according to Cummins. When results come back negative, the balance of protecting the force and quality of life kick in, but the restriction on movement remains in effect for the entire duration of the 14-day stay. The Soldiers are not free to leave the DPC, other than to gather comfort items, where they are marched to and from the nearby coffee shop and shoppette.
“It is what you make it,” said Pfc. Christopher Williams, DPC resident and Mobile, Alabama native. “The cadre, they listen to you. Things they can do in their power; they will make sure they do it.”
The DPC, completely enclosed by fencing, is designed to temporarily house transient service members passing through U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz. It was recently retrofitted for quarantine and in-processing. There are multiple buildings called personnel holding areas, but during unprecedented times there are bound to be issues.
“One of the biggest challenges we faced so far was our first positive case,” Cummins said. “The plan that was in place on identifying that Soldier, separating them from their group, doing another test and then transporting that individual to an isolation barracks for another 14 days for observation, but we figured it out.”
The goal of TF Willkommen is to provide a safe and isolated environment for Soldiers in between the United States and their final destination.
“The exit strategy for the Soldiers usually occurs about day 12,” Cummins said. “They are given another COVID test, and once we identify they have been given a clean bill of health on day 14, they are all separated, put back on buses and sent to their garrisons throughout Germany or Italy.”
Task Force Willkommen will remain in effect, indefinitely, providing service in support of United States Army Europe, host nation countries and even the individual.
“I am looking forward to going to my unit,” Williams said. “It’s going to be a fun experience.” (Source: US DoD)
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