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Military

U.S. Department of Defense

April 24, 2022
Transcript

Commanding Generals of V Corps and 82nd Airborne Division Hold a Press Briefing

Lieutenant General John S. Kolasheski, commander, V Corps, and Major General Christopher C. LaNeve, commander, 82nd Airborne Division Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby

LT. GEN. JOHN S. KOLASHESKI: ... commanding general of V Corps. V Corps is assigned to U.S. European Command and is responsible for the operations here along the eastern flank, from Estonia all the way down to Bulgaria. And really the Army equities that are a part of that.

These units that are in each of the countries in that -- the eastern flank - can range from a 150 soldiers up to several thousands. And they are here at the direction of the Secretary of Defense, to focus on assurance and deterrence activities here in Eastern and Central Europe.

All told Task Force Victory has about 22,000 soldiers that are here from all three components of the U.S. Army, the active Army, the National Guard, as well as also U.S. Army Reserve.

In order to coordinate and synchronize these operations -- these activities, I have my main command post; it's located in Germany. And then I have a forward command post that's located here in Poland.

And then I have the 1st Infantry Division, which is a unit from Fort Riley, Kansas, that is over here with us and they're located in Poland. And they've got responsibility for Poland and the three Baltic countries, for coordinating their activities with host nation as well as with NATO in those areas.

And then I have the 2nd Cavalry Regiment which is a unit that is down in Ansbach, (inaudible) near Vilseck, Germany, that is down in Romania and has responsibility for Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. So that's kind of our array of forces in the command and control structure that we have in place.

As many of you know, there's been a lot of activity before the 24th of February as well as also after the 24th of February. And we've been a part of that. So we, with our allies and in coordination with them, quickly reinforced the Baltics as well as in eastern -- central, and eastern, and southern Poland and then down into the Black Sea region with the movement of different Army capabilities from maneuver units, tanks, Infantry-fighting vehicles, to attack helicopters. Again in coordination with our NATO allies and with host nation approval, as well as also in consultation with the State Department at each of the embassies -- U.S. embassies there in those countries.

So really it was an integrated, U.S.-integrated, combined set of operations with our allies.

In terms of our ongoing activities, we are working with NATO and working with the Slovakian, the Hungarian, the Romanian, as well as the Bulgarian governments, on the development of battle groups -- battle groups that are similar in structure, similar in size to those that you might be familiar with in the three Baltic countries.

Up in Estonia, that is a British-led battle group that is up there. And it has three different countries that are part of that. In Latvia it is a Canadian battle group with approximately 10 countries that are part of that. And then in Lithuania it is a German-led battle group that has eight nations. And then in Poland, is the U.S. and there's about four different countries that contribute to that battle group.

So we're in the process of working with those four countries in the southeast to develop these battle groups in consultation with NATO.

In a -- in a battle group, is about 1,200 soldiers. It is -- got tanks. It's got infantry fighting vehicles. It's got artillery. It's got air defense. It's got medical. It's got logistics. All of those things necessary to make it a credible force.

And so we're seeing some steady progress. We're seeing some momentum in the build of these battle groups. And so we're pretty excited. And we are postured to help enable this development as they come in to fruition.

The other thing that we're responsible for is, we have a series of exercises that we've conducted over the last couple of years. It's the Defender series of exercise. It is a multinational, it's with allies and partners. It's joint. And it is also with all of the services that are involved in that.

We're getting ready to do the second exercise as a part of Defender 22. And that is an exercise that is focused up in the Baltics as well as in Poland and a couple of other countries. And it is a series of collective live fires as well as also a series of force-on-force training that take place where you would traditionally see it in a -- in kind of the United States, at the National Training Center or in Fort Polk, Louisiana, or here in Europe at Hohenfels, Germany.

So a whole host of different activities associated with that. And also has given us an opportunity to integrate CONUS, Continental United States-based units. Is a - you get to exercise our force-projection capability. As those units come in from the Continental United States into Europe, quickly integrate with either equipment that they ship from home station or equipment that they draw from Army pre-positioned equipment stocks that are here in Europe.

And they marry up with that equipment and then they start doing exercises with the host nation under this rubric of Defender 22.

The third item that we're doing is some -- some Abrams tank-orientation with Poland. As many of you recall, the U.S. government approved the sale of 250 Abrams tanks to the Poles. And so we're in the process of working with the Poles on the training plan to integrate that piece of equipment into their army.

And then the last is continuing to mature the relationships with our allies. And then I have been in and out of theaters for over 20 years and I have never seen the Alliance as cohesive as it is currently.

I mean everybody is in lockstep here in terms of, you know, working together to you know, develop our collective readiness, our collective capability, to respond to crisis or conflict or defending.

So we're continuing to work those relationships with all of the countries, with a focus for me and my headquarters along the eastern flank.

And so with that I'll turn it over to Chris LaNeve who is going to give you an overview of what his organization is doing.

MAJ. GEN. CHRISTOPHER C. LANEVE: Thank you, sir.

So I'm Maj. Gen. Chris LaNeve, I command the 82nd Airborne Division and it's a (inaudible). Thanks for coming, and, too, it's a great opportunity to sit next to an old friend and (inaudible) with the V Corps commander, sir.

So I command the 82nd Airborne Division. And as you probably know the 82nd is our Immediate Reaction Force responsible for the (inaudible) Army.

So with me here in -- in theater is a little over 4,700 pax* assigned to Task Force 82. That's members of my headquarters that's located in -- in this building. And then I have elements out of 3rd Brigade Combat Team, elements out of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, my combat aviation brigade, my sustainment brigade and my DIVARTY* that's attached to the headquarters.

We're paired right now with the 18th Mechanized Division, the Polish Division, for our training. So we've been doing a lot of collective-level training events with each other, working on interoperability, and really understanding each other to try to help us both get better. They've been incredible partners here.

You know, we have multiple missions that we're performing in the -- in the country. So you know, the V Corps commander here just talked a little bit about Defender Europe. We're taking part in Defender Europe here in a couple of weeks. We will do an airborne insertion with some of our partners across Europe, so it will be a great opportunity for not only, you know, reassuring our native allies and partners, but really learning from them and their capabilities and helping us to enhance our capabilities.

So again thanks, for coming. And looking forward to answering your questions.

PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY JOHN F. KIRBY: (inaudible), you want to -- you want to ask first question?

Q: (inaudible).

MR. KIRBY: You don't need to start. All right.

Q: (inaudible) All right.

Q: Just two quickly, please.

MR. KIRBY: Identify yourself please?

Q: (inaudible) with the Wall Street Journal. (inaudible) on this facility which you're not naming (inaudible) there's also about (inaudible) 155-millimeter howitzer rounds and I understand there's about seven of these, ready to be deployed across the border. Just wondering what that - what that (inaudible) - whichever of you wants to answer -- what's that (inaudible) vehicle brings to the Army in general (inaudible) more specific question?

(CROSSTALK)

LT. GEN. KOLASHESKI: The 155 round is used both in self-propelled artillery systems as well as those that are towed and it gives range depending on the type of 155 round, could be out to, you know, 30 kilometers. So it does give some stand off to any country that is able to effectively employ it. So it's about you know, keeping -- achieving that standoff in concert with observers that are actually able to identify a target and then call for fire. And then those would be the fires, the mechanisms to actually engage them.

Q: (inaudible) across the -- across the border what capability might specifically help them?

LT. GEN. KOLASHESKI: I mean if there is a determined threat then you know, it would be a form of mechanism to engage the threat, to either suppress it or render it incapable of influencing activities in that local area. It could destroy it. I mean the equipment could be destroyed. The people could be injured or killed. So again it gives that capability to engage from a distance.

MR. KIRBY: And, I mean I've talked about this myself. I can be on the record now. But I mean in the kind of terrain that we're dealing with in the Donbas region which is flatter, not urban, not as hilly, not as forested, we have said and the Ukrainians have told us that one of their most acute needs is for artillery, long-range fires. We say this -- we say it in the Pentagon and we believe that that kind of capability is what they need most right now in the days and weeks ahead. And that is why in concert with them, and in consultation with them we have prioritized the shipment of artillery systems.

(inaudible)

UNKNOWN: Sure.

(LAUGHTER)

MR. KIRBY: (inaudible), Associated Press. You're welcome.

Q: (inaudible). (inaudible) not (inaudible).

LT. GEN. KOLASHESKI: Correct. In the Battle Group -- Battle Group development. Yes.

Q: And how close is that? How close are you to using that now? (inaudible) It did not exist (inaudible) and whether (inaudible), how close are you to actually (inaudible)?

LT. GEN. KOLASHESKI: Yes. So it's a -- it's a good question. And it varies by country. So you have what is called a host nation. And then you have what is called the framework nation. And they're not the same.

So in Estonia, the host nation is Estonia, and then the framework nation is the U.K. In Poland, the host nation, U.S.[is] the framework nation. So it's as we -- as we kind of move to the south and the Slovakia -- the Slovakia military the nation, is the host nation. The framework nation is the Czech Republic. And in Hungary, it's the Hungarians, both nation and -- in terms of the host nation and framework nation.

Down in Romania, the French are the framework nation, Romania is host nation. And then down to Bulgaria, right now it's the Bulgarians both. And there could be a change there, but right now it is both.

Fundamentally they're centered on a battalion, from either the host nation or the framework nation, depending on where it is.

And so for instance down in Slovakia, there's a Czech Republic battalion that has been identified and is preparing to move into Slovakia where it will get married up with other voluntary national contributions from other countries. And so they're in the process of forming that battle group over the next 30 to 45 days. And then it just varies as you go forward.

Now what we have is, U.S., a U.S. Stryker Company. That is a part of that effort, about a 150 people with equipment and all their -- their Stryker vehicles and they've got you know, mortars and other capabilities there.

And then we have a Security Force Assistance Team that is working with that battalion to take it from being a battalion which is traditionally singularly focused on a tank battalion, focused on just tanks, to now a battle group with all these other different type of capabilities. They're going to deal with artillery, air defense, they've got infantry now. And so it becomes a lot broader and a lot larger.

So they're in the process of getting the national contributions from others and then pulling them together and starting the training process.

So we've got you know, that -- that activation of the battle group and then you have the initial operational capability and then you've got the full operational capability. And so there are varying stages of that. Some have declared (inaudible). Some have put a mark on the wall and whether we'll meet those, we'll see. So it kind of balances out.

Q: (inaudible).

LT. GEN. KOLASHESKI: These are new. These four country -- they're -- they're -- correct. They -- I'm sorry. Yes. Correct.

Now usually they're underneath a host nation brigade. A brigade could be of 3,500 or 4,500, so this battle group would be underneath a national brigade. So like here in Poland, that the enhanced forward-presence battle group here in Poland, U.S.-led is underneath a MECHA, a Polish Mechanized Brigade. And so same kind of construct in these four countries. They will be tucked under, you know, a Romanian brigade or a Hungarian brigade, and so on.

MR. KIRBY: Jen?

Q: (inaudible) how quickly can you get those seven howitzers or any howitzer to the front lines, and what do you see in terms of logistics inside of (inaudible) concerns about logistics (inaudible), getting the right - the right (inaudible) to the right people (inaudible), in terms of (inaudible) what would be your (inaudible)?

MR. KIRBY: You want me to take that?

I think, Jen, I'll take that. So it's a -- you're already seeing you know, the drawdown package that was just announced. There are systems from that, that are already here. And it's not taking more than 20, 24 to 48 hours, depending on what's being shipped and the availability of ground transportation to get it into Ukraine. Again as we've said before, when it's transferred to Ukrainian hands, it's training property.

We are not dictating to them how fast -- how fast they get into frontline units or what units in fact get them.

What Minister Resnikov has said on repeated occasions with Secretary Austin is, (a), he's grateful for the speed with which these things are getting in, but also just he's reaffirming for the secretary that it is getting to the units that he believes as Minister of Defense for Ukraine, the Ukrainians they need to get. And really that's a decision that they're making.

So 8 to 10 flights a day here into the region and literally all -- every day there is something moving in and it can take as little, from the time the president signs an authorization, to getting it into the region as little as 48 hours.

In fact it did, on the previous PDA, 48 hours was the fastest. And then once it's in the region it doesn't take more than 24 to 48 to get it into Ukraine. So it's an incredibly fast process.

Q: Can ask the general a follow-up question. What is the mood here in Poland? With your counterparts? Are they (inaudible) that they are under threat, that Russia could attack Poland or is that (inaudible)?

LT. GEN. KOLASHESKI: I think that not just here in Poland, I think many of the countries are concerned about Russia's next steps and are very pleased to have the U.S. military here, you know, working side by side with them, helping them develop their capabilities, and the capacity, collectively us and them, in readiness (inaudible) lethality.

And so I think that they all recognize that that Russia is currently in -- will be a threat in the future.

Q: But do you feel like they are feeling more secure (inaudible) threat against Russia - by Russia (inaudible)?

LT. GEN. KOLASHESKI: I -- I think, yes, I think they do. They're - and -and -- it is incredible to see, you know, what each of the countries is doing to help set conditions for our combined training with them, on exercises.

You know, and it's not just the U.S. and those host nations. I mean if you looked at the four battle groups the -- three battle groups under the Baltics for instance, other NATO countries you know, came in with additional forces.

In some cases those battle groups almost doubled. So the Brits up in Estonia. The Canadians and Latvia. The Germans in Lithuania. All of them, increased the number of forces that they have.

And then you've also seen some movements towards the development of the four battle groups that are still being formed down in the south.

And so again I think that, you know, they're pretty lockstep and the solidarity here, the cohesion here is real. You can feel it. I mean -- I mean we have frank conversations with each of those allies as we're kind of moving around the eastern flank, (inaudible).

MAJ. GEN. LANEVE: Just for the teams that we're partnering with, what I'm telling you, I mean everything from the border guards to the division that I'm working with, incredibly capable, incredible people.

So as we've done multiple combined arms, live fires events with them, their ability to do everything that we would say, you know, would make you a very lethal force they're able to do, and it's -- it's actually an honor to be here with them.

I will tell you another piece because I think as you know, someday, we all can look back on this, look back on what the Polish army and the Polish people have done. Almost every military member that I talked to in the Polish army, in this area, has a Ukrainian family living with them. They've opened up their arms to, you know, people they don't - they've never met before. And living with them, and sharing bread, and they're -- they're very committed to helping.

And it has -- it has been for me, awe inspiring to see, and to be part of it.

MR. KIRBY: Go ahead, Sylvie.

Q: (inaudible) I want to ask a question about (inaudible) Soviet Union (inaudible). So as we transition from (inaudible) Donbass (inaudible), is there a concern (inaudible) today (inaudible)?

MR. KIRBY: I don't know that that's a fair question for either of these guys, Sylvie. I can tell you that the secretary, one of the reasons we're -- one of the things we expect to talk about in Ramstein on Tuesday is continued -- additional contributions by allies and partners on the systems, and weapons and ammunition, that the Ukrainians need the most.

And some of that is nonstandard. And every day we're continuing to canvas allies and partners not just here in Europe, but around the world to provide that kind of -- that kind of capability to the Ukrainians.

And again one of the things they'll discuss on Tuesday is sort of what the long-range defense industrial base needs of Ukraine are going to be post-war.

Q: (inaudible)?

MR. KIRBY: Again. I think that's better -- that's better to me. Not to -- not to these gents. They have consistently -- in the conversations that we're having them at all levels, have talked about what their needs are.

And one of the things that -- we talked about this before, one of the things they say that they need is small arms and ammunitions because that's the kind of thing they're using every single day, every single day. And they're getting -- they're getting NATO's standard, but they're also getting nonstandard as well because that's what their fighters require.

And we're -- we're working hard every day. Secretary Austin is canvassing allies and partners around the world to give them more of that.

Q: (inaudible), NPR. I was wondering if you could give us real evidence of how much haste (inaudible)?

MR. KIRBY: Yes. Again, I think that's better for me -- we have in fact accelerated not only the major package deliveries. I mean in just the last 10 days the president has signed out two eight hundred million-dollar packages for -- so, $1.6 billion in just the last 10 days.

And, Michele, some of the material from the -- from the most recent one is already arriving not just here, in Ukraine. That's an incredible rate of speed that we've just never done before, not in modern times.

And we are willing to continue to look to expedite further -- each of these aid (inaudible) are packages now. They'll take multiple shipments, and it will depend - each package is different, so they may take more shipments than the other, but they'll all taking multiple shipments. And we're moving as fast as we can.

Q: And the Russians have threatened to, you know, (inaudible) weapons (inaudible) things like that. Have you seen any, like, specific threats or have things changed since (inaudible)?

STAFF: We have not seen any indications that shipments are being interdicted by the Russians. But look, we don't take anything for granted, Michele, and every day, you know, we're -- we're taking a look at that and monitoring that.

And that's why we're being very careful about what we're saying in terms of how this material is getting into Ukraine. And I will leave it at that.

We have -- two more minutes, (inaudible).

STAFF: Whichever you prefer.

Q: Go ahead.

Q: Simon Lewis, from Reuters. Just to follow up on the battle groups we're talking about. Do those new four battle groups in these -- to the south of here, would those constitute permanent basing or is that -- are those kind of temporary -- can we call that NATO permanent basing, just as a kind of -- a matter of language?

LT. GEN. KOLASHESKI: The facilities, each of the nations are working to develop to be able to provide a permanent base of operations for the battle groups to occupy. The actual contributing nations, those units would rotate, just like they do up in the Baltics or the battle group in Poland.

Depending on the national decisions on the length of the rotation, it would vary.

Q: So the force is coming from the framework nations you mentioned, they're not permanent -- they're not permanently based in Slovakia or Romania, that they will (inaudible)...

LT. GEN. KOLASHESKI: The headquarters personnel would change, you know, the Tank Company could change, you know, rotate in and a new one as they rotate out, so in terms of the facilities - permanent, in terms of the entity, permanent -- but the units that man the battle group rotate...

Q: And just (inaudible)...

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: ... unless it's a -- unless it's a national unit that is located there.

Q: ... Thank you. And just one other quick thing, John, you mentioned the training of Ukrainians outside of -- outside of Ukraine. I wonder if that's something that either of you guys are involved in. Is there any -- is there any Ukrainian -- training of Ukrainians happening here in Poland that you can (inaudible)?

MR. KIRBY: That's -- that's -- that's - again, I'll -- I think I ought to (inaudible).

Q: OK.

MR. KIRBY: What I can tell you is the first tranche of artillery training is just about complete.

Q: Right.

MR. KIRBY: And well -- we -- these are train-the-trainers. So it's a small group of Ukrainian soldiers that will go back to Ukraine and train their colleagues on these howitzers, in particular, some of which are already in Ukraine, and they'll be able to fall in on systems.

And we anticipate that there'll be another tranche of about 50 or so Ukrainians, again artillerymen, to be trained on -- to be -- similarly go through the same cycle of training, going forward. And we'll continue to look for other opportunities as needed. But that's -- that's where we are right now.

Q: And they're trained in an unnamed third country. (inaudible)

MR. KIRBY: Yes. We're not talking -- we've - we've not identified -- it's training outside Ukraine. And we've not identified the host nation...

Q: And how many...

MR. KIRBY: ... at their request.

Q: ... how many in the first tranche? How many?

MR. KIRBY: In the first tranche was a little bit more than 50.

Q: OK.

MR. KIRBY: And we'll have about the same for a second tranche that will begin fairly soon.

John, last question.

Q: Thank you. John, you've spoken to (inaudible). So aside from the artillery training and not going into specifics of where, what countries is training (inaudible), are there other mission areas, other assistance (inaudible) that you're actively coordinating training in at the moment and are there areas that you anticipate adding, in the near term (inaudible)...?

MR. KIRBY: Again, that's for me. So we -- we've said that in addition to the howitzers there are some systems that have required training, like the Switchblades.

And we anticipate that in the case of the coastal defense -- the unmanned coastal defense systems that we talked about, that will require some -- some additional training.

The Phoenix Ghost Unmanned Aerial System that we just talked about a few days ago, John, that will require some additional training. If not -- none of those systems -- and I think also there'll be some -- some additional familiarization required for that counter-artillery radar system.

So as I've said many times, though, as we look at providing systems to Ukraine that they are not familiar with, such as all of those, we want to make sure that we're factoring in enough training to make them competent, but not give them systems that would require such an onerous amount of training that it would take them out of the fight for too long.

Q: Yes. (inaudible) comments on (inaudible)?

MR. KIRBY: Yes. I'm not aware of any medical training that they have. They do have military medical capability.

Now as part of -- as the packages that have gone, literally since before the invasion there have been medical first aid supplies as part of that. But I'm not aware of any medical specific training that we're going to be conducting.

The training we're talking about is largely in systems for which they're unfamiliar with themselves.

Okay guys. We're going to have to wrap it there.

[*Eds. note: 'Pax' means personnel; DIVARTY is Division Artillery.]

https://www.defense.gov/News/Transcripts/Transcript/Article/3010076/



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