Eastern European Task Force among items on transformation drawing board
HEIDELBERG, Germany — The Army is drawing up plans for a new Black Sea-based Eastern European Task Force built along the same lines as the rapid-reaction Southern European Task Force now based in Italy.
That’s just one of the items offered Tuesday by the commander of Army forces in Europe as he opened the Land Combat Expo with the most-detailed glimpse yet of what his command will look like in the years ahead as the Army withdraws tens of thousands of troops while redistributing others to new outposts to the south and east.
In what Gen. B.B. Bell dubbed a “10-year march in the future,” the Army in Europe will shrink from 62,000 troops to about 20,000, while returning 1st Armored and 1st Infantry Divisions to the United States and merging his headquarters with V Corps.
That much was already known.
Opening the expo, Bell filled in several new details including:
The 20 existing separate brigades under Bell’s U.S. Army Europe and V Corps will be consolidated into seven brigade-size “units of action.” Meanwhile, the Army’s current finance, support and personnel commands will merge into a single “support command.”The 21st Theater Support Command, the Army’s main logistics unit for Europe, will downshift from a two-star command to a one-star command.While other units leave, Bell said he expects an “early arrival” for a new Stryker Brigade to be stationed in Europe. That brigade will be based at the Army’s training center at Grafenwöhr, where new barracks and family housing are being built.The Army in Europe will shift from the dominant service in Europe with nearly 60 percent of the 107,000 troops now assigned to EUCOM, to about 36 percent of the some 66,000 troops remaining. That will put it behind the Air Force, which is expected to end up with about 27,000 troops in Europe, or 42 percent of the EUCOM total.The Army force structure that remains in Europe by 2014, said Bell, “is going to be much more effective in this part of the world than my current force.”
Although highlighting the contributions his mostly heavy armor and mechanized infantry units have made in Iraq, Bell said, “armor has minimal use in this theater.”
“I wish I had more forces that were more relevant for this theater,” added Bell. “For an armor guy to come to that conclusion after three years, that’s a big statement.”
“Now, none of you armor commanders walk away, but I believe that Stryker Brigade could take your armored division on and walk away with a win,” said Bell, drawing a “Bring ’em on” from the 1st Armored Division commander, Maj. Gen. Martin Dempsey.
Regarding the new Eastern Europe Task Force that Bell wants to build, he said: “We’re looking at a task force to the east that’s something like SETAF.”
Unlike the Italy-based headquarters, which has its own brigade of infantry assigned to it, Bell said he will use the new EETAF as a headquarters to oversee rotational brigades coming from the United States.
Marine Gen. James L. Jones, who followed Bell’s presentation, said rotational forces were critical for transformation efforts.
The Army hopes to rotate brigade-size units into Europe on a six-month basis.
“It’s a deal breaker,” Jones told the audience. “We will need rotational forces … in order to be strategically effective.”
Jones told Stars and Stripes that rotational forces in Europe are predicated on force levels in Iraq and Afghanistan drawing down.
“We won’t be able to do it until that happens,” he said.