Army touts added airpower for Europe mission
ILLESHEIM, Germany — The Fort Drum, N.Y.-based 10th Combat Aviation Brigade took control of the Army’s aviation mission in Europe Thursday, heading a headquarters here that will be responsible for deploying Chinooks, Black Hawks and Apache attack helicopters along NATO’s eastern flank.
“We can have a thousand tanks lined up outside, but any potential adversary that looks there and doesn’t see any aviation, he would know they are not serious,” U.S. Army Europe’s Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges said at a ceremony marking the unit’s arrival. “When he sees U.S. Army aviation he knows we are serious.”
Soldiers with the 10th CAB and their aircraft began arriving in Europe last month, marking a milestone for U.S. Army Europe, which had emphasized that shortfalls in airlift were a major capability gap for forces operating in Europe.
At a ceremony at the Army’s post in Illesheim, U.S. commanders and German officials touted a bilateral partnership that has enabled hundreds of rotational troops to take up residence at the Army’s small Bavarian post.
“Welcome to Bavaria,” said Marcel Huber, Bavaria’s state minister for national affairs. “To this day American soldiers have been guarantors of peace and security in our country and in all of Europe.”
There have been some concerns in the Illesheim area about the influx of choppers potentially buzzing by residential areas. Huber said officials would work to minimize the effects but added “in these uncertain times, we all have to pay a price for security and for peace.”
About 2,000 soldiers from Fort Drum are serving a nine-month rotation in Europe as part of the U.S. European Command-led operation Atlantic Resolve. The Army, which recently deployed an armored brigade from the U.S., has been the centerpiece of efforts aimed at reassuring NATO allies.
The 10th also is being augmented by a Fort Bliss, Texas-based aviation battalion, whose 400 soldiers bring with them 24 Apaches.
Military officials now emphasize that the primary focus of the Atlantic Resolve campaign has shifted from “reassurance” to “deterrence,” as allies seek avert aggression from what the West has called a more assertive Russia. Moscow has denied any interest in attacking a NATO state and has described the growing military presence near its borders as a provocation.
For the Army, the arrival of more aviation assets — roughly 85 helicopters of various kinds — provides a boost for a service that has seen its air combat capabilities diminish after cutbacks to the force in Europe.
The 12th Combat Aviation Brigade maintain a headquarters in Germany, but downsizing and the pace of current operations in places such as the Baltics and Poland have stretched the Army.
Hodges, who often speaks of the Army’s need for “speed of assembly,” said the arrival of 10th CAB delivers much-needed reinforcements.
“This is about deterrence,” Hodges said.