Dunford: No changes to EUCOM accompanied tours
WASHINGTON — U.S. military commanders in Europe are tightening security in the wake of terrorist attacks on the Continent but so far see no reason to change rules allowing families to accompany servicemembers on permanent assignments there, the top U.S. officer said Monday.
Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made the comments after a string of attacks across Europe, including three since Friday in Germany. The most recent occurred Sunday when a 27-year-old Syrian exploded a device in Ansbach, killing himself and wounding 15 others.
About 7,000 U.S. military, civilian and dependent personnel are stationed in Ansbach and nearby garrisons.
“Based on what we are seeing right now … there’s no discussion or indication that we would have to change our accompanied tours in Europe,” Dunford told reporters Monday at the Pentagon.
Since March, there have been at least six terrorist attacks at transit or entertainment locations used sometimes by U.S. families based in Europe. The attacks have left more than 160 people dead and hundreds of others injured.
Terrorists affiliated with or inspired by the Islamic State group have hit airports in Brussels, Belgium and Istanbul; cafes in Nice, France, and a train in Wurzburg, Germany.
The most recent attacks occurred in Germany since Friday in Munich, Reutligen and at an outdoor music festival in Ansbach.
“I want to express my condolences to the people of Germany for the string of attacks they've faced in recent days,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Monday.
There are 62,000 U.S. military servicemembers assigned to bases in the U.S. European Command area of responsibility, said Henrietta Levin, a Defense Department spokeswoman. That figure does not include all of the dependents accompanying those personnel in Europe.
In the March attack on Brussels Airport, the wife of Air Force Lt. Col. Kato Martinez was killed and several of his family members were gravely injured as they were checking in for a flight home. Martinez was assigned to Allied Joint Force Command at Brunssum in the Netherlands.
The force protection levels for those European bases is “something we are constantly assessing at each and every installation where Americans are located,” Carter said. “When we do that, we take into account the composition of the presence there, including whether there are families or not, … what the need to those families are for travel inside and outside the base.”
The U.S. military did remove almost all dependents from Turkey in the last few months as that country became increasingly unstable. Last week, an unsuccessful coup led to a temporary halt in U.S.-launched airstrikes from Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base and the U.S. operations there ran on generator power for several days. The power to the base has been restored, and air operations against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria have resumed, Dunford said.
The general said the military has “made adjustments to…force protection in the wake of these attacks” in Europe. He added Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, NATO’s supreme allied commander, has issued some new guidance to personnel and families in Europe on how to increase their safety while living and traveling there.