Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commanding general of U.S. Army Europe, was at the Maneuver Warfighter Conference last week at Fort Benning, Georgia, to update Army leadership on Russia’s influence in the region, as well as discuss the work of 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division for Operation Atlantic Resolve.
Operation Atlantic Resolve began in 2014 as a mission to not only train with allied nations and build relationships, but also to visibly demonstrate a commitment to the security of NATO allies after Russia’s illegal actions in Ukraine, according to the Army’s Atlantic Resolve website.
“For the United States, our role in Europe is to demonstrate capability, which will assure our allies and deter Russians. And the Raider brigade has been magnificent in helping us do that,” Hodges said.
1ABCT’s current mission as a regionally aligned force with U.S. Army Europe has it deployed to European countries on a rotational basis and also act as the NATO Response Force, according to a recent Fort Stewart news release.
The first rotation was in March, and 1ABCT is currently sending 3,500 soldiers back to Europe for another three-month rotation this month, with 1,500 of the soldiers supporting Atlantic Resolve.
They are expected to be a regionally aligned force for Europe until 2016.
Hodges said the soldiers were greeted in Europe as if it were 1944 Paris, with people lining the streets and dignitaries coming out to greet them.
“You talk about seeing a U.S. Army tank or Bradley fighting vehicle; that has such a high level of impact. It’s a real commitment, and the host nations love seeing it. And, in fact, they obviously want to see as many tanks from Fort Stewart or anywhere that they can,” he said.
Hodges said he was impressed with the logistical achievements of the brigade, including shipping large equipment to Europe and moving it to different locations and exercises with allied nations.
The soldiers from 1ABCT are training in Europe with allied countries in areas like maneuver and live fire, just like they would if they were back home.
“They’ve done the full range of tactical tasks that you would expect a heavy-brigade combat team to do even if they were all at Fort Stewart or the National Training Center,” Hodges said.
The mission to train with NATO allied troops allows all deployed service members to be taught a set standard so that they understand how to work together.
“We’re not trying to get them to American standards; we’re trying to get everybody, including our own soldiers, to NATO standards. A key aspect of interoperability. We are not going to fight as just the United States,” Hodges said.
Hodges said he anticipates the U.S. will be sending rotational units like 1ABCT to Europe for the next two to five years because Russia has shown no indication of changing its behavior.
And because the Army is getting smaller, there will not be any permanent troop growth in Europe, so they will have to keep sending units on a rotational basis to provide continued assurance and deterrence, according to Hodges.
Keeping the European and NATO alliances intact is their No. 1 priority, he said.
“So, do I think the deterrence is working? I think the Russians were surprised by how quickly the West responded to what they’re doing in Ukraine,” Hodges said. “They see this increased number of exercises, they see NATO improving its ability to respond quickly. And they see the United States putting heavier equipment back in Europe.
“I think these are all indicators that will help the Russians avoid miscalculating — and would serve to deter them from an attack.”
He went on to say that the military is only one component to deterrence. The European nation’s continued pressure on Russia with sanctions and diplomatic means, as well as their reliance on one another, is helping to keep Russia from going further into another country.