U.S. forces redeploy as DEFENDER-Europe 21 concludes

June 21, 2021

WIESBADEN, Germany —

U.S. forces are in the process of redeploying to the United States as DEFENDER-Europe 21 activities across Europe come to a close.  

DEFENDER-Europe is an annual large-scale U.S. Army Europe and Africa-led, multinational, joint exercise designed to build strategic and operational readiness and interoperability between U.S., NATO allies and partners. 

U.S., NATO allies and partners worked together throughout DEFENDER-Europe 21 to build readiness, enhance interoperability, and strengthen relationships. More than 28,000 multinational forces from 26 nations conducted nearly simultaneous operations across more than 30 training areas in a dozen countries. 

“Interoperability is key to alliance readiness. DEFENDER-Europe 21 is evidence of the ironclad U.S. commitment to NATO, is a prime example of our collective capabilities, and demonstrates that NATO allies and partners are stronger together,” said Gen. Christopher Cavoli, U.S. Army Europe and Africa commanding general.

DEFENDER-Europe 21 concluded with the redeployment of U.S.-based forces and equipment. Strategic readiness includes the ability of the U.S. military to dynamically project force and set the theater by mobilizing and deploying forces, sustaining them in a crisis and redeploying them when their mission is complete. U.S. service members will now clear the training areas, return prepositioned stocks, move to ports and return to home stations.

The large-scale movement of troops and equipment for these exercises involve extensive support from each of the twelve host nations.

“We owe a great thanks to the host nations, their citizens and governments, and the participating units for their hard work and steadfast support throughout the exercise, said Cavoli.”  “This was an extremely complex exercise with activity going on across the theater at many different locations almost simultaneously.  The coordination and cooperation required for DEFENDER demonstrate our allies ally and partner commitment to European military readiness and interoperability.  And, to the various units throughout DoD that made DEFENDER successful, thank you for your participation and dedication to mission success.”

Throughout the exercise, U.S. forces demonstrated their ability to successfully train in a COVID environment. Critical to this success was the detailed planning, and the strict COVID prevention and mitigation strategy implemented by U.S. and participating nations. As the U.S. military members redeploy, they will continue to follow host nation requirements, as they did when entering Europe and during training.

DEFENDER-Europe 21 encompassed several linked exercises. Linked exercises shared coordinated mission command, mutual sustainment and a mission partner environment. Exercises linked to DEFENDER-Europe 21 included Immediate Response, Swift Response, Saber Guardian and a Command Post Exercise.

• Immediate Response (mid-May through early-June) – more than 5,000 troops from eight countries spread out across 31 training areas in 12 different countries to conduct live fire training and port operations.

DEFENDER-Europe 21 opened in Albania with the execution of Joint Logistics Over-the-Shore operations at the Port of Durres. During the operation, the USNS Bob Hope, the largest strategic lift vessel the U.S. has offloaded over 1,000 pieces of heavy equipment onto smaller vessels that transferred the cargo to shore for onward movement. This was the first time JLOTS has been executed in Europe since WWII. Additionally, a Bulk Fuel Over-the-Shore operation was successfully executed, whereby 20,000 gallons of fuel was transferred over the shore near the port of Durres. This was the first time a fuel over-the-shore operation had been executed in over 20 years. 

In Croatia, U.S. Naval Ship Yuma and U.K. Vessel Hurst Point off-loaded more than 300 pieces of military equipment at Gazenica Port after ferrying from Durres, Albania.  U.S. Army Soldiers from Florida National Guard participated in a multinational exercise that including training with Bradleys and live-fire exercises.

Throughout May, the 839th Transportation Battalion Surface Deployment and Distribution Command offloaded more than 300 pieces of equipment, including 10 helicopters, from the Liberty Promise commercial vessel, at the Port of Alexandroupoli, Greece.  The equipment helped set the theater for DEFENDER-Europe 21 exercises, Immediate Response and Saber Guardian.

Bosnia and Herzegovina hosted two joint training exercises including weapons qualifications, air assaults and medevacs operations in conjunction with host nation hospital responses. More than 300 U.S. Army Soldiers from the Florida and Alabama Army National Guard participated in planned exercises including one live fire exercise.

At the end of May, approximately 250 U.S. Army Soldiers from the Florida National Guard arrived at the airport in Skopje in support of Defender-Europe 21. The 1-153 Cavalry participated in a two-day multinational spur ride ruck march. The U.S. and NATO allies and partners also conducted three live fire exercises which occurred in conjunction with North Macedonia’s national exercise Decisive Strike 21.

• Swift Response (early to mid-May) – included airborne operations in Estonia, Bulgaria and Romania.

In May, U.S. and U.K. Soldiers fired a total of 24 rockets during a live fire exercise in Estonia. The rockets were training rounds with no live warheads. As part of the Joint Forcible Entry, the 82nd Airborne Division departed Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and flew directly to Estonia where they conducted a strategic jump exercise at night into a drop zone in Nurmsi. Following the jump, the brigade conducted air assaults.

In Bulgaria, the 173rd Airborne Brigade conducted a night jump and in Romania Polish paratroopers lead the way as U.S., Romanian, Dutch and German paratroopers conducted multiple airborne operations at Boboc Training Area. Swift Response wrapped up with a joint air assault lead by the Royal Netherlands Army at Babadag Training Area. 

• Saber Guardian (mid-May through early-June) – More than 13,000 service members from 19 countries conducted live fire and air and missile defense operations, along with a simulated large scale medical evacuation.

In May the 173rd Airborne Brigade conducted five large-scale heavy airdrops at the Papa Air Base. U.S. and NATO partners participated in medical evacuation operations in Budapest. 

Mid May through early June, U.S. military forces participated in seven training events including a night jump, a live fire a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System Rapid Infiltration and two Bulgarian national exercises, Balkan Sentinel 21 and Strike Back 21.  

In June, the 30th Medical Brigade deployed over 400 Soldiers to Germany in support of a hospital exercise which provided NATO certification to the 519th Hospital Center. Multinational units established and validated the field hospital, conducted a joint medical evacuation and simulated care and transport of simulated casualties to higher echelons of care during Hospital Exercise 21 at Baumholder. The 30th MED BDE treated over 100 simulated patients from the point of injury to medical evacuation to higher echelons of care.  

In early June multinational forces participated in two live fire exercises at Central Training Area, Varpolota, Hungary. And in Romania on June 10th the Air and Missile Defense Command participate in four multinational joint live fire exercises at Capu Midia Training Area.  

• Command Post Exercise (June) – approximately 2,000 personnel exercised the headquarters’ ability to command multinational land forces in a joint and combined training environment while maintaining real-world operations across 104 countries on two continents. The Headquarters Multinational Corps South-East participated in the computer assisted exercise with the U.S. V Corps and the Headquarters Allied Rapid Reaction Corps as part of the Computer-Assisted Command Post Exercise in Bucharest, Romania, marking the end of Defender-Europe 21. 

All DEFENDER-Europe 21 photos, videos, news stories and b-roll packages of each event are posted to www.dvidshub.net/feature/DefenderEurope. All products are public domain and can be used by any media outlet. Media representatives can create a free account to download high resolution versions of the products.