European Activity Set / Regionally Aligned Force
Eventually the US plans to station more than 3,000 soldiers in Poland, marking the largest troop build-up in the country since the Cold War ended. The mission, dubbed Atlantic Resolve, would see the soldiers, along with 87 Abrams tanks and more than 500 vehicles, rotate between Poland and several other nearby NATO countries, including Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary. The US troops on the Atlantic Resolve mission are deployed on a nine-month rotation.
There were no American tanks in Europe in early 2014, but the US began redeploying armored fighting vehicles to the continent after Russia reunited with the republic of Crimea in March 2014. The return of heavy armor means the U.S. Army has an armored force in Europe to train across the full-spectrum of unified land operations alongside allies and partners in the region. Two brigades remained in Europe — the 173rd Airborne Brigade bases in Vicenza, Italy, and the 2nd Stryker Brigade in German Vilseck.
Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, US Army Europe's commanding general, in press interviews in Lithuania, Estonia, and Poland in November 2014, mentioned the positioning of an armored brigade-size equipment set (tanks, trucks, etc.) in Europe -- the European Activity Set -- for rotational personnel to use when they are in Europe. The EAS was designed to equip a heavy battalion of troops that deploys to the region for training exercises, known as the Regionally Aligned Force.
The European Activity Set is a combined-arms, battalion-sized group of vehicles and equipment that is pre-positioned in Europe to outfit U.S. Army Regionally Aligned Forces when they rotate into theatre for training or contingency operations. The EAS is located and maintained at the U.S. Army’s Grafenwoehr Training Area in southeastern Germany, home to the Army’s only permanently forward-based training command, the 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command.
The EAS includes vehicle systems and equipment that would outfit a U.S. Army combined-arms battalion, such as M1A2 SEP v2 Abrams Main Battle Tanks and M2A3 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles, as well as the standard array of tracked and wheeled support systems. The last permanently forward-based heavy armor vehicles in Europe were assigned to the 170th and 172nd Infantry Brigades.
As part of U.S. Army Europe transformation and rebalancing of forces, the 170th and 172nd were inactivated, and the majority of their equipment was required to return to the United States. The EAS is comprised of excess equipment from within the USAREUR footprint, as well as refurbished equipment from other theatres of operation. The Abrams tanks are an updated version (M1A2 SEP v2) of those that were returned to the U.S. as part of the inactivation 170th and 172nd.
Hodges recommended increasing that capability to allow equipping a brigade of the Regionally Aligned Force. Having the vehicles and other equipment available as these Soldiers arrive saves the Regionally Aligned Force time and money by not having to transport their own equipment for these months-long rotations.
As of November 2014 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division from Fort Hood, Texas, was the unit working with NATO Allies in the Baltic nations and Poland. In December 2014, they werereplaced by 2nd Cavalry Regiment from Grafenwoehr, Germany. There was a plan in place to rotate units every few months for the foreseeable future. The number of troops was planned to remain what it is now unless hosts asked for more personnel for exercises.
The US, which already had around 67,000 troops in Europe, expected over 3,000 soldiers to arrive on the continent in 2015 between March and the fall, Lt. Gen Frederick Ben Hodges, Commander of US Army Europe, told The Hill in January 2015. “I anticipate that almost the entire 1st Brigade of 3rd Division will come over in March, so you’re looking at probably over 3,000 soldiers that would be part of a brigade combat team like that,” Hodges said.
They’ll be followed by more than 150 tanks and other military vehicles that will be deployed in Europe “by the end of 2015,” the commander said. “We will have an entire heavy brigade combat team of equipment – that’s enough tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles, self-propelled Howitzers, engineer vehicles, on and on, for three battalions and a reconnaissance squadron plus all the enablers,” he stressed.
It’s not yet decided where the new tanks are to be stationed, with Germany being among the most probable locations. The US was not planning to deploy any additional permanent troops to Europe with the equipment as it will be serviced by personnel rotating through the continent.
The US build-up of forces in Europe is aimed reassuring Washington’s allies on the continent, who are alarmed by the Ukrainian conflict, which the West claims was masterminded in Russia. Operation Atlantic Resolve remains a clear sign of the U.S. Commitment to the NATO Alliance. That operation was scheduled to continue through 2015. USAREUR along with the countries of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland was looking at the best way to support this operation in the future. Any plans to preposition heavy armor vehicles and equipment in the Baltics or Poland would involve close coordination and consultation between the US and the host countries.
The European Activity Set is a combined-arms group of vehicles and equipment pre-positioned in Europe to outfit US Army Regionally Aligned Forces when they rotate into theater for training or contingency operations. The EAS was initially located and maintained at the U.S. Army’s Grafenwoehr Training Area in southeastern Germany, home to the Army’s only permanently forward-based training command, the 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command. By 2015 EAS sites were located in Germany, Romania, Bulgaria and Lithuania.
The EAS originally consisted of a single combat arms battalion set that provided equipment, but has since expanded to a full Armored Brigade Combat Team, or ABCT, primarily employed to conduct Operation Atlantic Resolve activities. EAS consists of 12,000 total pieces of equipment, of which approximately 250 are tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles and self-propelled howitzers. Approximately 1,750 other pieces are support vehicles. The 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment – a combined arms battalion of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division -- was the unit designated as the U.S. Army’s Regionally Aligned Force for the US European Command. In April 2014, 2-5 CAV deployed to Europe to participate in several multi-national training events using the EAS. The Grafenwoehr Training Area is the U.S. Army’s largest live-fire training area in Europe. Combined with its sister training area 80 kilometers south in Hohenfels – home to the Army’s only forward-based Combat Training Center – Grafenwoehr provides an ideal staging venue for rotational units and a centralized location for training alongside regional allies and partners.
Pre-positioning vehicles and equipment in Europe allows to the Army to save time, money and resources by only rotating personnel into theatre, rather than shipping large equipment back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean. It also allows the Army to be more flexible and responsive in meeting the needs of the U.S. Combatant Commander in the region. The EAS may be used wherever U.S. rotational forces train or operate in the region. The primary use of the EAS during the 2-5 CAV rotation in 2014 was at the Hohenfels Training Area in Germany where the unit participated in the multi-national training exercise called Combined Resolve II.
The last permanently forward-based heavy armor vehicles in Europe were assigned to the 170th and 172nd Infantry Brigades. As part of U.S. Army Europe transformation and rebalancing of forces, the 170th and 172nd were inactivated, and the majority of their equipment was required to return to the United States. The EAS is comprised of excess equipment from within the USAREUR footprint, as well as refurbished equipment from other theatres of operation. The Abrams tanks are an updated version (M1A2 SEP v2) of those that were returned to the U.S. as part of the inactivation 170th and 172nd. The return of heavy armor means the U.S. Army has an armored force in Europe to train across the full spectrum of unified land operations alongside allies and partners in the region. Those continuing engagements strengthen interoperability among partners, enhance trust and help build enduring relationships that will be the foundation for future security in the region.
The EAS is maintained in a designated motor pool on the Grafenwoehr Training Area by the 405th Army Field Support Battalion-Germany, a unit of the 405th Army Field Support Brigade.
Storage of EAS equipment within allied and partnered nations allows regionally-allocated forces easier access whenever it is needed. While EAS storage sites are in the works for Estonia and Latvia, Lithuania's is the first in the Baltic region to be operational. Lithuania's EAS site would save regionally-allocated forces time and resources. The site would allow units the opportunity to focus more on training objectives during their time in country. The EAS site rapidly enable forces to conduct reception, staging, onward movement and integration into the countries. This would allow force to get into the country, build combat power and initiate training in accordance with the training schedule.
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