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Staff Sgt. Kyron Brown, a transportation management coordinator with the 627th Movement Control Team, guides military vehicles off the roll-on-roll-off ramp of the USNS Yuma in the port of Gazenica in Zadar, Croatia on May 3, 2021. This was the first delivery of what will be 300 pieces of military equipment moved to Croatia for use during exercise DEFENDER-Europe 21. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Joshua Oh)

The recent DEFENDER series of linked exercises tested the Army’s strategic readiness and demonstrated the ability of the materiel, installation and sustainment enterprise to rapidly move Soldiers, equipment and supplies from the U.S. to the European and Indo-Pacific theaters at scale.

Strategic readiness is the Army’s ability to mobilize, deploy and sustain combat-credible land forces from its installations to the forward tactical edge, and is a competitive advantage over adversaries. As the single command responsible for the readiness and sustainment of the Strategic Support Area, Army Materiel Command delivers logistics, sustainment and materiel readiness from the installation to the forward tactical edge to ensure globally dominant land force capabilities.

“Both exercises entailed the deployment of combat-credible forces from the U.S. to each theater, the preparation to draw equipment and the movement of personnel and equipment across the theater to various training areas as developed within the exercises,” Curt Higdon, chief of Army Materiel Command’s War Plans and Strategy Division, said.

Approximately 29,000 U.S., allied and partner forces from 25 nations conducted simultaneous operations across more than 30 training areas in more than a dozen nations from the Baltics, to Africa, to the critical Black Sea and Balkan regions as part of DEFENDER-Europe 21. DEFENDER Pacific enhanced the Army’s ability to dynamically employ forces to address the full range of security concerns in support of regional alliances and international agreements across the Indo-Pacific Theater.

Army Materiel Command actively participates in worldwide training and exercises such as the DEFENDER series to build and strengthen readiness in support of the Army and the joint force.

“The DEFENDER exercises allowed AMC to ensure readiness and interoperability in a COVID-19 constrained environment while exercising mission command of multiple AMC elements in both theaters,” Higdon said.

Strategic readiness begins at Army installations where Soldiers live, train, conduct the day-to-day business of the Army, mobilize and deploy. Six of the seven Army installations in Europe supported units mobilizing and deploying for DEFENDER-Europe 21.

The Army is constantly in motion and must be able to get its equipment to the fight rapidly and efficiently from fort to port, port to port, and port to foxhole. The DEFENDER series further demonstrated AMC’s and the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command’s ability to support the Army’s strategic readiness and combatant commanders’ requirements.

In support of DEFENDER-Europe 21, SDDC moved 2,377 pieces of equipment through six unique sea ports of embarkation and five unique sea ports of debarkation in the U.S. and Europe.

“DEFENDER-Europe 21 was a tremendous success for the Joint Deployment and Distribution Enterprise,” Col. Joshua Hirsch, commander of SDDC’s 598th Transportation Brigade, said. “Just as importantly, we accomplished the mission safely and on-time.”

The brigade supported the Navy’s Military Sealift Command, 7th Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary) and the terminal operator at the port of Durres, Albania, in the first Joint Logistics Over the Shore operation to be conducted in Europe since World War II.

“This was also the first time we’d ever moved U.S. Army equipment into the port in Durres, which is a premier example of port diversification in our theater,” Hirsch said. “We worked well with our allies, our joint partners and with commercial industry at each of these ports.”

In the Pacific, SDDC’s 833rd Transportation Battalion loaded 460 pieces of equipment from 15 units onto two ships at the Port of Tacoma, Washington. Additionally, the 833rd conducted simultaneous operations at the Port of Anchorage, Alaska, and the Port of Grays Harbor, Washington, loading another 237 onto two ships.

Also during the DEFENDER series, AMC and Army Sustainment Command exercised and validated the draw, employment and turn-in of equipment sets from Army Prepositioned Stocks. Army Prepositioned Stocks serve as a strategic deterrent and provide combatant commanders with the combat equipment required to rapidly respond to any contingency in support of the National Defense Strategy. APS includes medical equipment and supplies that enable health care delivery and sophisticated medical capabilities around the globe.

In Europe, Equipment Configuration and Hand-off Area teams assigned to Army Field Support Battalion-Benelux issued 281 pieces of APS equipment to infantry, signal and support units in Germany and Estonia. Following the exercise, sites at Zutendaal, Belgium, and Eygelshoven, Netherlands, received, inspected and performed maintenance on all forward-issued equipment to ensure it was ready for issue again in the future.

ASC’s Army Field Support Brigades and Army Field Support Battalions served as AMC’s “face to the field,” providing the indispensable logistical backbone and support to units in theater required to execute a complex operation the size and scope of the DEFENDER series. In the Pacific, 75 ASC personnel from 11 duty stations deployed to three countries in direct support of the 402nd AFSB’s theater mission.

ASC established Logistics Civil Augmentation Program base life support at four life support areas, one forward logistics element, four aerial ports of debarkation, six convoy support centers and 15 training areas across eight countries in Europe. Services included dining facilities, life support areas with latrines and showers, COVID support, materiel handling capabilities, and recovery capability throughout the operational area.

In addition, Army Contracting Command provided contingency contracting at 37 sites in seven countries, and backstopped 11 NATO Support and Procurement Agency sites in Europe. ACC also trained 78 contracting officer representatives for the exercise.

The series also allowed AMC to ensure Soldiers had the right munitions – from small caliber ammunition to ballistic missiles – in the right places, at the right time, to meet requirements. Five depots and ammo plants from Joint Munitions Command provided replacement munitions to the Operational Support Area involved in supporting the DEFENDER exercises. The explosive items pulled from the depots range from mortar rounds to Howitzer prop charges to shoulder-fired rockets.

The materiel enterprise must exercise and engage in tough, realistic training that stresses people, equipment and processes in order to be ready for competition, crisis or conflict. From mobilization training and deployment support at installations, to moving thousands of pieces of equipment, to contracting support and sustaining the force, AMC had a huge role in the planning, execution and success of the DEFENDER series.

“Multiple Army Field Support Brigades and Battalions, contracting teams and installations enabled the power projection of units from the U.S. to Europe and the Pacific,” Higdon said. “The ability to rapidly deploy combat-ready forces in support of combatant commanders and have equipment ready to fall in on across the theater is critical to support joint forces and our allies and partners.”

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