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United States Army Africa (USARAF)
Southern European Task Force (SETAF)
Southern European Task Force (Airborne) (SETAF)

United States Army Africa (USARAF), as the Army Service Component Command for US Africa Command, enables full spectrum operations while conducting sustained security engagement with African land forces to promote security, stability, and peace. US Army Africa's mission is to deploy a contingency headquarters in support of crisis response as directed. In December 2008, the Southern European Task Force (SETAF) was designated as the US Army's component headquarters for US Africa Command (AFRICOM).

AFRICOM subsequently designated US Army Africa (USARAF) as the Lead Component for Logistics and Contracting (LCLC) in the AFRICOM area of responsibility. As such USARAF had been tasked by AFRICOM with providing Common User Land Transport (CULT) support for all US Military Services operating in Africa. The AFRICOM Surface Distribution Service (ASDS) contract was the primary contractual mechanism for providing secure surface transportation and distribution services for all Department of Defense (DoD) and supported agencies operating within the AFRICOM area of responsibility (totaling 55 countries as of 2013) and Egypt. The ASDS contract, which replaced the African Surface Distribution Network (ASDN) contract, was a non-personal services contract to provide secure intratheater surface transportation and distribution of general cargo within the AFRICOM area of responsibility and Egypt. While Egypt was in the US Central Command (CENTCOM) area of responsibility, it was included because it might have to be transited in some instances during the course of the contract, as Egypt was sometimes used as a regional transfer point for North Africa by some commercial contract carriers.

Under ASDS, the selected contractor would provide all necessary resources including logistics support and management to perform surface transport and distribution of general cargo within all the countries within the AFRICOM area of responsibility and Egypt. The selected contractor would obtain all necessary licenses and permits required to operate in the applicable ASDS countries and would comply with applicable laws, codes, and regulations within each of those countries in connection with the execution of the contract task orders, provided to the contractor in writing. In addition to the basic transit of materiel under the contract, the selected contractor would also be required to establish and operate cargo staging areas for temporary holding, sorting, and distributing of cargo enroute and establish and operate cargo transfer sites for transfer of cargo enroute. The transfer of sensitive cargo was prohibited under the ASDS contract. This cargo was defined as: Classified equipment and materials; gunpowder; military weapons; military explosives other than gunpowder; military radar, radio-navigation apparatus, and radio devices for remote control of weapons and equipment; tanks and other self-propelled armored combat vehicles with weapons; aircraft (helicopters and airplanes), spacecraft (including satellites), and suborbital and space carrier vehicles; telescopic sights for weapons; and bombs, offensive grenades, torpedoes, mines, missiles, and similar combat devices, their parts, cartridges, shells, other munitions and their parts.

As part of the 2013 ASDS contract solicitation, released on 5 August 2013, examples of staging areas were provided. They included: (1) From the seaport of Mombasa, Kenya, a staging area might be located in Malindi, Kenya for a final field destination in Manda Island, Kenya; (2) from the airport of Entebbe International, Uganda, a staging area might be located at the airfield in Gulu, Uganda for the final field destination of Juba, Southern Sudan; (3) a staging area from the sea or airport of Tunis, Tunisia might be located in Bizerte, for the final field destination of Cap Surratt, Tunisia; (4) a Staging Area from the seaport of Matadi, Democratic Republic of Congo might be in Kinshasa, for a final field destination of Kisangani, Democratic Republic of Congo; and (5) a staging area from the seaport of Beira, Mozambique might be located in Tete, Mozambique for a final field destination of Lilongwe, Malawi. The contract solicitation made clear that these were just examples of staging areas that might or might not be used in future operations and exercises.

Headquartered at Caserma Ederle in Vicenza, Italy, about 25 miles west of Venice, SETAF had been the organization of choice when it came to responding to crises and contingencies anywhere within US European Command's area of responsibility. SETAF, until 2008, had been an airborne rapid reaction force and Joint Task Force Headquarters. SETAF had been forward deployed since the 1950's and remained an integral part of the US Army's Power Projection ability.

The SETAF mission was to provide trained forces, including a Joint Task Force headquarters, which were deployable within 72 hours. With approximately 1,900 soldiers assigned or in tenant support units, SETAF was the largest US Army force south of the Alps in Europe, with responsibilities throughout the Southern Region and the Mediterranean area. SETAF planned and conducted joint warfighting or stability operations in NATO's European Command area of responsibility. It enhanced regional stability by providing host nation liaison for operations conducted in Italy, and provided a fully deployable core of a Joint Task Force oriented on stability operations.

SETAF's soldiers trained at home station, at other areas within Italy, and regularly traveled to Germany to take advantage of the training opportunities available at both Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels. They also trained in former East Bloc countries, and worked with soldiers from other nations who came to train with them. Airfield seizures and noncombatant evacuations were SETAF specialties, and conducting an annual full-scale exercise involving both ensured that soldiers were prepared to conduct such complicated and potentially hazardous missions. SETAF was an instrumental part of the European Command's theater engagement strategy, participating in combined exercises in Morocco, Tunisia, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Ukraine and Hungary.

The origins of the US Army's Southern European Task Force lie in Austria and Camp Darby, Italy. In 1951, the US and Italy signed an agreement that the US would operate lines of communication across Italy, and that the US would occupy land near Livorno. This land became Camp Darby, named for Brigadier General William O. Darby, who was killed in action in northern Italy on 30 April 1945.

All US occupation forces in Austria were withdrawn after the Austrian State Treaty was signed in 1955. Under provisions of the agreement with Italy, Camp Darby was the base for the removal of soldiers, equipment and supplies from Austria. With Austria neutral, northern Italy's eastern flank became vulnerable to attack. To reduce the danger in that area, the US agreed to establish a force there. On 25 October 1955, the US Army formally activated the Southern European Task Force. SETAF's first headquarters was at Camp Darby, but the largest number of soldiers had always been in Vicenza. Shortly after activation, SETAF moved the headquarters to Verona, to Caserma Passalacqua. Troop strength reached 10,000, and USASETAF was formally established with a US-Italian agreement.

In 1959, following President Eisenhower's visit to Rome, a third agreement brought significant changes to SETAF. Italy's military forces were re-established and US troop strength was subsequently cut in half. Equipment from inactivated US units was turned over to Italy. Italian Army personnel were assigned to the SETAF general staff to assist with unique binational responsibilities.

The headquarters moved again in 1965 to Caserma Carlo Ederle in Vicenza. Soldier strength dropped to 2,500 in 1970 and civilian employment went down 70 percent in a unilateral cost reduction effort. The port opened by 8th Area Support Group in Livorno was returned to Italian control.

SETAF's mission and geographical area of responsibility were increased in 1972 when the command enlarged its signal support unit and took control of the 558th Artillery Group in Greece and the 528th Artillery Group in Turkey. These units had been in support of NATO since the early 1960s, along with the 559th Artillery Group, which had been a SETAF unit in Italy since 1964.

With the assignment of the 1st Battalion, 509th Infantry (Airborne Battalion Combat Team) in 1973, SETAF accepted the missions of maintaining and deploying the battalion on its own or as part of the Allied Command Europe Mobile Force (Land). Until 1992, SETAF was considered a logistical command. In addition to the ABCT and the 3 artillery groups, SETAF operated a major depot at Camp Darby with the 8th Area Support Group. With that unit's designation as a support command and later a theater army area command, SETAF was to be responsible for the reception, preparation for combat, and onward movement of forces entering the southern region for general war.

Political reorientation of Europe in 1989 and 1990 caused major revision of US and NATO military priorities. With the drastic reduction of threat of general war, SETAF received new missions for regional tactical operations as command and control headquarters for Army and Joint units. Its 3 artillery groups were inactivated and the 2 support groups became support groups with unique missions. The 8th Area Support Group's depot operation developed into the maintenance and issue of theater reserve stocks organized in unit sets sufficient to fully equip a heavy brigade.

In January 1994, a provisional infantry brigade was established at SETAF to provide command and control of SETAF's deployable units. In August 1994, the newly formed brigade deployed to Rwanda on Operation Support Hope to aid millions of displaced citizens. This same operation saw portions of the SETAF headquarters deploy for the first time in history, as the nucleus of the Joint Task Force Headquarters.

By December 1995, Operation Joint Endeavor was in its initial stages. SETAF demonstrated its role as the theater's reaction force by deploying as the lead element of the peace implementation forces into Bosnia-Herzegovina. After being relieved in-place by the 1st Armored Division in March 1996, SETAF units redeployed to Vicenza. After returning, the 3-325th Airborne Battalion Combat Team was reflagged as the 1-508th Airborne Battalion Combat Team.

April 1996 proved to be exceptionally busy. Elements of the SETAF Infantry Brigade deployed to Dubrovnik, Croatia to secure the crash site of Treasury Secretary Brown's plane. Another reinforced company deployed to Monrovia, Liberia with special operations forces to facilitate noncombatant evacuation operations.

In November 1996, portions of the SETAF-led Joint Task Force Guardian Assistance deployed to Uganda and Rwanda to assess the needs of Rwandan refugees in Zaire. When refugees began returning to Rwanda, the mission changed to verifying refugee numbers and informing Rwanda and assistance agencies. A SETAF-led JTF headquarters deployed again in March 1997 as part of Operation Guardian Retrieval. The mission was to establish an enabling force in Congo in preparation for the potential evacuation of non-combatants from Zaire. The JTF redeployed upon a peaceful government transition in Zaire.

SETAF provided reception, staging and movement support to Task Force Hawk during Operation Allied Force in the spring of 1999 and to deploying Kosovo Force (KFOR) units later in the year. From March to July of 1999, SETAF assumed the strategic reserve mission for the Stabilization Force in Bosnia-Herzegovina (SFOR). The Strategic Reserve, a combined force comprised of US, Italian, Turkish, Polish, Romanian and Dutch units, stood ready to respond if events warranted the reinforcement of that critical mission.

On 1 October 1999, SETAF demonstrated its rapid response capability when the SETAF Infantry Brigade and the 1-508th ABCT executed Operation Rapid Guardian, parachuting into southern Kosovo to show US resolve and commitment to the KFOR peacekeeping mission. Two weeks later the SETAF Infantry Brigade and the 1-508th ABCT deployed to Bosnia for Operation Rapid Resolve, further demonstrating our rapid deployment capability.

Later in October 1999, SETAF demonstrated its ability to form a JTF when it was given the mission to be the JTF core of a major contingency planning operation, Skilled Anvil. From October 1999 to February 2000, this JTF developed a comprehensive and executable war plan for use in EUCOM's potential crisis areas.

On 12 June 2000, the provisional SETAF infantry brigade was reflagged as the 173rd Airborne Brigade (Separate), continuing the proud legacy of this historic unit. The Brigade's mission was to operate as a separate, independent brigade; to fall in on a division as an organic brigade; and to operate as the Army Forces component in a Joint task force.

On 26 March 2003, during Operation Iraqi Freedom, SETAF's 173rd Airborne Brigade conducted a parachute assault into Northern Iraq. About 1,000 paratroopers jumped into Bashur Airfield in a historical and critical mission called Operation Northern Delay. The Brigade remained in Iraq for a year conducting a variety of missions from defeating insurgents to building and renovating schools.

On 25 July 2003, SETAF was designated to lead the US military mission in Liberia to help prevent an impending humanitarian disaster. A peace agreement was implemented, forces of the warring factions were separated, air and seaports were reopened, and the United Nations and private humanitarian organizations resumed delivery of badly needed relief.

In February 2005, both SETAF and the 173rd Airborne Brigade were called upon to do their part in the global war on terror, deploying to Afghanistan, as part of the Combined Joint Task Force-76.

The U.S. Army's transformation saw the 173d Airborne Brigade change into an Airborne Brigade Combat Team in 2006. The 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, with its headquarters and 2 battalions from Vicenza and 4 battalions in Germany, deployed in May 2007, again to Afghanistan, in support of NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). The Brigade Combat Team redeployed in the summer of 2008.

From June through November 2007, SETAF soldiers deployed to Romania and Bulgaria as a part of Joint Task Force - East. JTF-East was a United States European Command initiative to strengthen relationships between the United States and our Eastern European allies.

In July 2008, SETAF provided command and control for Exercise Immediate Response in the Republic of Georgia. IR08 provided US European Command another opportunity to develop a partnership with our allies. SETAF went through major changes in the fall of 2008.

In August 2008, SETAF conducted its final airborne operation and, shortly after, SETAF Soldiers replaced their maroon berets with black ones and replaced their airborne tabs with historic SETAF scrolls.

Then in early December 2008, the U.S. Ambassador to Italy and the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs announced in Rome that SETAF officially assumed duties as the Army component headquarters for US Africa Command. As of 2010, US Army Africa (USARAF) was under the administrative command of US Army Europe (USAREUR), and through that command to the Headquarters, Department of the Army. At that time, it was planned that by October 2011, the administrative command relationship between USARAF and Headquarters, Department of the Army would be direct, through the similar relationship with USAREUR would be maintained. USAREUR also provided various levels of support to USARAF.

In June 2012, it was announced that the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division would become regionally aligned with US Africa Command (AFRICOM) by 2013. The unit would become the main force provider for security cooperation and partnership-building missions in Africa. The Brigade was the first Army unit to be named in this way for alignment with a combatant command and this would mean the unit would be on deck for their mission for an entire year. The tasking would be to perform security cooperation, when needed, not operational or regular warfare missions. Other units would be assigned to follow the Brigade when its year-long tasking was completed. It was expected that those assignments would follow the Army force generation model.

Prior to the alignment of 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, AFRICOM and USARAF had both had to make do with no troops directly assigned for operations in Africa. As a result, many of its engagements have been conducted by reserve-component forces. The alignment of a brigade combat team with AFRICOM and USARAF would not stop the continued usage of reserve-component forces for security cooperation engagements, but the concept was expected to open the door to a whole range of opportunities.




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