Let’s begin with why is U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) here? Tracing back to the first Supreme Allied Commander (SACEUR), Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, USA, USEUCOM has a storied history of ensuring the peace and stability of Europe for more than half a century. During the height of the Cold War, more than 500,000 service members were stationed in Germany alone to defend against the USSR charging through the Fulda Gap. Today, we have less than 90,000 in the entire area of operations (AOR). As the only permanently forward deployed Combatant Command (COCOM) in their own AOR, EUCOM has a unique opportunity to train and fight at home.
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Staff Sgt. Oppong, left, and Spc. Gilbert, from the 635th Movement Control Team, direct a forklift with palletized baggage. Oppong and Gilbert are responsible to weigh and measure pallets and then provide that information to the load master of the aircraft. The U.S. Army Europe’s 635th Movement Control Team, 39th Transportation Battalion based out of Kaiserslautern, Germany, deployed and redeployed approximately 130 pieces of U.S. military stock and approximately 350 personnel in and out of Latvia using military and host nation assets. Photo courtesy of the 635th Movement Control Team
“U.S. European Command conducts military operations, international military engagement, and interagency partnering to enhance transatlantic security and defend the United States forward.”
Even as U.S. policy and military focus shifts to the Pacific, EUCOM remains an important capability for logistical support to six geographic and functional COCOMs. A brief study of a few U.S. and coalition operations around the globe demonstrates “Why Europe Matters.”
• OIF/OEF: Europe has been and will continue to be the gateway to Southwest Asia. In Feb 2014, the transit center at Mihail Kogalniceanu, Romania (MK) was fully operational and as of March 15, 2015, more than 171,000 passengers have processed in and out of CENTCOM theatre. Furthermore, the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (LRMC), a Role 3 medical center in Germany, has been the principle facility for life-saving medical operations for the past 13 years.
• Operation Unified Protector (OUP): A NATO operation where our allies took the lead in the actual fight in Libya and the U.S. took on a support role. Whether it was providing millions of gallons of JP5/8 in the air, at sea via UNREP, or Foreign Military Sales (FMS) of more than $113 million in Precision Guided Munitions (PGMs), the U.S. is the only nation in the world who could have enabled our allies to fight.
• European Reassurance Initiative (ERI): A resurgent Russia clearly demonstrates why having a mature logistics infrastructure in theater matters. While Europe has seen a major drawdown in personnel since the end of the cold war, the majority of the logistics capability remains. This capability allowed forces to deploy rapidly to Poland and the Baltic Nations without reliance on logistical support from thousands of miles away.
• Special Operations Missions: Operators are global in nature, but the majority of their missions in recent years involved support from Europe. Details are classified, but none of the news stories would have happened without the robust logistics support from EUCOM and its components.
• War Reserve Stock Allies-Israel (WRSA-I). The U.S. maintains 1.2 billion in stocks held on the U.S. balance sheet, and prepositioned in Israel to support various contingencies. In the most recent fight in Gaza, EUCOM demonstrated our capability to provide very quick and robust support for a wide range of operations for one of our closest and most important allies.
A mind’s eye view tells the story even better. Picture a map/chart of the Mediterranean. Find Crete in the East Med. Place a dot in the Med 100NM south of the island. Next, use your nautical dividers (from OCS/USNA/ROTC) to draw a circle with a 1,000 NM radius. Start with Israel at three o’clock and work your way around your circle. You will find most of the U.S. and ally hot spots are well within the circle. Gaza strip, Egypt, Libya, Kosovo, Eastern Ukraine, Crimea, Georgia (South Ossetia and Abkhazia), Northern Distribution Route (NDN), Iran, Iraq, Horn of Africa (HOA) and Syria.
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An F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to the Knight - hawks of Strike Fighter Attack Squadron (VFA) 136 prepares to launch from the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). Photo by MCSN Anthony Hopkins II
Is Europe and NATO a direct U.S. National Interest?
• Europe + U.S. = 50 percent of worlds GDP
• NATO economies account for nearly 33 percent of world trade flows
• 33 percent of trade across the Atlantic are intra-company transfers
• Most foreigners working for U.S. companies are European, likewise, most foreigners working for European companies are Americans
• In 2011:
-Europe invested ~$125 billion in U.S., eight times more than China
-U.S. invested $220 Billion in Europe, while divesting in China
Today’s SACEUR, Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, USAF, faces some of the same challenges as Gen. Eisenhower did in 1945 just after World War II (coalition building, economic stability, etc…). However, the logistics infrastructure from basing to fuel pipelines in Europe provides a robust support network for both the U.S. and our allies/partners. The continued support of our NATO allies and non-NATO partners will be the foundation of many operations to come. This capability is a “crown jewel” and must be maintained to support worldwide operations in pursuit of U.S. political and national security interest.
So, “Why Does Europe Matter?” Many of our closest allies and most important partners are in Europe. No longer focused on rebuilding Europe after WW II, they share our interest and values of individual freedom, open markets, international order, and are willing to join a coalition to protect these interest and values.
Finally, most of our culinary treats originated in Europe and must be preserved. After all, what would football be without pizza and beer!
By Capt. David A. Shealy, SC, USN, Deputy Director, Logistics Directorate (J4); U.S. European Command, Stuttgart Germany