Baumholder soldiers take road less traveled on new supply route in Europe
By JENNIFER H. SVAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 16, 2016
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — The U.S. Army heavy-vehicle convoy crawled over mountainous terrain, through ice and snow, traversing more than 1,000 miles in five days along a circuitous route from Romania to Bulgaria and back again.
This was no leisure tour for the 13 Baumholder-based logistics soldiers who conducted the convoy earlier this month, nor was it a typical training mission since the soldiers weren’t supporting another unit or delivering equipment.
The 16th Sustainment Brigade’s mission was to test and establish a new supply route on unfamiliar roads between various training areas in Romania and Bulgaria that could support the transport of unwieldy military vehicles.
The convoy, officials said, enhances U.S. Army Europe’s “freedom of movement” — the ability to freely move from one country to another — a concept that’s key to the Army’s efforts to expand its presence and activities outside of Germany as it seeks to reassure allies and deter Russian aggression.
“Proofing routes helps us understand where we have freedom of movement and where we must apply leadership, effort and resources to achieve the freedom of movement required to deter and defend,” said Maj. Gen. Duane Gamble, 21st Theater Sustainment Command commanding general, in a news release.
The convoy left Mihail Kogalniceanu, Romania, on Dec. 6, traveling a giant loop of about 1,120 miles that connected four military training areas in Romania and Novo Selo in Bulgaria, said 1st Lt. Adrian Dilley, 317th Support Maintenance Company platoon leader.
Many of the roads had not previously been traveled by the U.S. military, Dilley said.
“We established a brand new route,” he said. “It was sort of to say, ‘Hey, we can navigate anywhere in Romania and Bulgaria, and we can navigate the most difficult terrain.”
Of the six vehicles in the convoy, the heavy equipment transporter hauling an M1A2 Abrams tank was the heftiest, coming in at close to 110 tons, Dilley said.
The soldiers, forward-deployed from three different companies in the 18th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion at Baumholder, planned, prepared and executed the convoy operation, relying heavily on local military police for escort and civilian officials for route surveying.
“We pay the civilians to do the highway surveys and make sure they’re going to take us on roads where we’re not going to run into any bridges that are too low” for height clearance, Dilley said.
The new supply routes could be used in the event of a contingency, Dilley said, if other transportation links, such as by ship or rail, were compromised. “If a maneuver unit or a combat unit needs armor – say one of their tanks goes down,” he said, “this allows us to know, ‘Hey, this is a route we can take to get you the armor that you need.’”
Dilley expects the routes will be traversed again, by Army units arriving early next year from the States to bolster security in the region..
More than 4,000 soldiers from Fort Carson, Colo., are slated to arrive in the German port of Bremerhaven on Jan. 6, from where they will be deployed to Poland, the Baltics states and Romania, Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, U.S. Army Europe commander said this week.
“The units coming from Colorado are going to have to use these routes to get from Point A to Point B,” Dilley said.