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As White House, Kremlin converse, Fort Carson battalion to test deployment speed to Europe

U.S. soldiers take part in a deployment ceremony at Fort Carson, Colo., on Sept. 27, 2013, Fort Carson officials announced Wednesday, May 3, 2017, that it was rushing a battalion of troops to Germany as part of a training exercise to prove how quickly the Army can get its forces overseas.

MARCUS FICHTL/U.S. ARMY

By TOM ROEDER | The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.) | Published: May 3, 2017

Even as the White House sought to ease tensions with the Kremlin with a presidential phone call, Fort Carson announced it was rushing a battalion of troops to Germany as part of a training exercise to prove how quickly the Army can get its forces overseas.

The 2nd Battalion of the 12th Infantry Regiment was tapped for the short-notice exercise, with several hundred of its soldiers headed out in the next two weeks, Fort Carson announced in a news release.

"This deployment readiness exercise provides an excellent opportunity for our soldiers and leaders to validate not only the Army's ability to deploy units under emergency conditions, but to also highlight our unit readiness and flexibility," Col. Matthew J. Cody, who commands the post's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, which includes the battalion, said in a statement.

"Our soldiers have the leadership, training and equipment necessary to accomplish any task. This exercise will give our soldiers a great training opportunity coupled with real-world experience."

The move comes as President Donald Trump sought to ease simmering tensions with a phone call to Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Military deployments to Europe, including one involving Fort Carson's 3rd Brigade Combat Team, have heightened tensions between the superpowers, with Putin saying in January that the incursion of U.S. troops could "destabilize" the region.

On Tuesday, Trump and Putin agreed to step up diplomatic efforts to solve the ongoing crisis in Syria and discussed continuing strife over North Korea's efforts to expand missile and nuclear weapons programs, the White House said on its website.

"The conversation was a very good one, and included the discussion of safe, or de-escalation, zones to achieve lasting peace (in Syria) for humanitarian and many other reasons," the White House statement read. "The United States will be sending a representative to the cease-fire talks in Astana, Kazakhstan on May 3-4. They also discussed at length working together to eradicate terrorism throughout the Middle East."

The increased U.S. military focus on Europe dates back to Obama-era allegations of Russian aggression in Ukraine in 2014. America established an ongoing mission to train the Ukrainian Army while launching a series of training exercises designed to show U.S. commitment to its allies in the region.

The Fort Carson battalion will join thousands of Fort Carson soldiers already in Europe, where the post's 4th Infantry Division is overseeing a series of NATO training exercises.

The post's 3rd brigade is already in Europe, where its battalions are spread from the Black Sea to the Baltic as part of a wider NATO mission aimed at deterring Russian aggression. The fresh battalion heading overseas is made up of light infantry troops. Because they don't have weighty gear like 72-ton Abrams tanks, they can simply board planes and head to battle within hours.

Fort Carson said the deployment was ordered with a degree of secrecy to assess how well the unit can get out of town.

"Monday, Maj. Gen. Ryan Gonsalves, commanding general, 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson, directed the brigade to conduct the exercise to test the ability of the battalion to alert, recall and deploy under emergency conditions," the post said in a statement.

The deployment comes as forces in Europe ready for Saber Guardian, one of the largest European training exercises since the Cold War. The new training initiative comes as the post's 1st Brigade Combat Team motors home from three weeks of training at the post's Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site east of Trinidad.

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©2017 The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
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