COVID-19 Hits Ex Defender Europe 20

US Army Reduces Size and Scope of Major European Exercise

In response to the current outbreak of the COVID-19 virus and recent guidance by the Secretary of Defense, the US Army has modified exercise DEFENDER-Europe 20 in size and scope. All movement of personnel and equipment from the United States to Europe ceased on 13 March.

The official statement read “The health, safety and readiness of our military, civilians, and family members is our primary concern. […] We continue to preserve the readiness of our force while maximizing our efforts to advance our alliances and partnerships.”

Dynamic Front, Joint Warfighting Assessment, Saber Strike, Swift Response Cancelled

US military sources also confirmed that the linked exercises to Exercise Defender-Europe 20 – Dynamic Front, Joint Warfighting Assessment, Saber Strike and Swift Response – will not be conducted. It is anticipated the armored brigade combat team already deployed to Europe will conduct gunnery and other combined training events with Allies as part of a modified Allied Spirit exercise. Forces already deployed to Europe for other linked exercises will return to the United States.

The purpose of Defender-Europe 20 is to build strategic readiness by deploying a combat credible force to Europe in support of NATO and the US National Defense Strategy.

This effort has exercised the US Army’s ability to co-ordinate large scale movements with Allies and partners. Since January, the US Army deployed approximately 6,000 Soldiers from America to Europe, including a division headquarters and an armored brigade combat team. It has moved approximately 9,000 vehicles and pieces of equipment from US Army Prepositioned Stocks and approximately 3,000 pieces of equipment via sea from the United States. And, in co-ordination with Allies and partners, it also completed movement of Soldiers and equipment from multiple ports to training areas in Germany and Poland.

Many details still being worked and discussed, with changes are anticipated to the deployment timelines of soldiers currently in Europe, redeployment of US-based equipment, and the next Atlantic Resolve rotation.

Update from EUCOM

In a statement Friday, the US Army in Europe has confirmed that some soldiers have been infected with COVID-19, but aims to reassure that military capability remains unaffected.

In the U.S. European Command area of responsibility, where approximately 35 cases of COVID-19 have been reported among the 72,000 service members assigned there, some participation in Exercise Defender-Europe 20 has slowed — but readiness to participate in the defense of the continent hasn’t changed at all, said the Eucom commander.

Source: US Army Europe