While vacationers lavished in the few remaining days of summer holiday across Europe, U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) maintained its ever-vigilant, ever-ready state with exercises and maneuvers across the continent’s land, sea and air.
From ground forces training on Georgian soil as part of Exercise Noble Partner 20 and strategic bomber missions crisscrossing the skies above the continent to NATO naval vessels conducting security missions in the frigid waters above the Arctic Circle, USEUCOM continued its ceaseless efforts, sustaining its high level of mission readiness and interoperability with NATO Allies and partners alike.
While the COVID-19 global pandemic remained front and center in the minds of exercise planners and participants alike, focused preventative measures were strictly emplaced and enforced to ensure the continued health of the force, along with each of the communities surrounding training areas, airfields and ports. U.S. forces conducted 14-day quarantine periods and COVID-19 testing before landing into each exercise’s respective country.
“While the rest of the world slows during the summer months, USEUCOM’s schedule of training missions and exercises continues at breakneck pace,” said U.S. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Christian Wortman, USEUCOM’s Deputy Director of Operations. “With Soldiers training in the Baltics, Poland, and Georgia; Sailors operating in the Barents Sea; Airmen flying and supporting the B-52s flights across Europe; and Marines training in the High North; there is no question that we stand stronger together with our NATO Allies and partners.”
A trio of NATO Allies – Poland, the United Kingdom and the United States – joined forces with one of NATO’s strongest partner nations, Georgia, to participate in Exercise Noble Partner 20 in military training areas some 20 kilometers from Georgia’s capital city of Tbilisi. Launched Monday and running through Sept. 18, Noble Partner 20 features nearly 3,000 military members conducting situational training exercises, live-fire exercises and combined mechanized maneuvers in Georgia’s Vaziani and Camp Norio training areas.
Cooperatively-led by the Georgian Defense Force and U.S. Army Europe, this annual exercise enhances regional partnerships and increases U.S. force readiness and interoperability in a realistic, multinational training environment.
Given the continuing impact of COVID-19 across the globe, Noble Partner 20 was reduced to better protect the participants’ and local communities’ safety. Working in close coordination with the Georgian Ministry of Defense, exercise participants also completed a 14-day quarantine as well as COVID-19 testing before arriving into Georgia.
Bomber Task Force
In what has become a dependable presence in the skies above Europe for the past two years with more than 200 successful missions, this latest strategic bomber rotation has once again seen the U.S. Air Force’s B-52 Stratofortress bomber aircraft training alongside NATO Allied and partner nations’ aircraft.
On Friday, three B-52s from the U.S. Air Force’s 5th Bomb Wing based at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota conducted integrated training with Ukrainian fighter jets within Ukraine’s airspace.
Part of a long-planned deployment of six B-52s from Minot to operate from RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire, England, a journey of more than 6,500 kilometers from its home base in America’s Midwest, the latest missions have once again provided air and support crews valuable training, and clearly demonstrated how forward-located aircraft and crews enhance NATO’s collective defense capabilities.
The Bomber Task Force’s most recent training cycle across Europe included training missions in the Black Sea and Baltic Sea regions as well as an unprecedented, single-day mission flying over all 30 NATO nations. The historic 30-nation flyover allowed U.S. bomber crews to integrate with military aircraft from Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom.
“These ongoing bomber task force missions showcase USEUCOM’s ability to project power and support our Allies and partners throughout Europe,” said Wortman.
Navy in the High North
Entering the Barents Sea together Monday, naval vessels from NATO nations Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States began conducting maritime security operations together in the ever-challenging high north.
Demonstrating seamless integration among NATO Allies, the three-nation surface action group is led by Royal Navy frigate HMS Sutherland (F81) and is joined by Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG-71), British Royal Fleet Auxiliary RFA Tidespring (A136) and Royal Norwegian frigate HNoMS Thor Heyerdahl (F314).
The major Navy component of USEUCOM’s arsenal of capabilities, U.S. Sixth Fleet routinely conducts operations north of the Arctic Circle with Allies and partners to help ensure continued and collective security and access to the seas of the high north.
USS Roosevelt (DDG 80) recently completed a 50-day patrol in the high north where it successfully conducted multiple passing exercises with Royal Norwegian Navy counterparts and joined five other nations to participate in NATO’s Allied Maritime Command-led anti-submarine warfare exercise, Dynamic Mongoose 20.
Northern Challenge 20
Kicking off last Sunday in Keflavik, Iceland, Exercise Northern Challenge 20 is an annual, joint-funded Icelandic Coast Guard-hosted, multinational explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) exercise aimed at preparing Power for Peace, NATO and Nordic nations for international deployments and defense against terrorism.
EOD technicians operating in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility joined military members from the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, Austria, Australian, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Iceland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Romania and Spain, along with specialists from the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency, for this unique exercise.
“USEUCOM’s diverse and dynamic activities across Europe in the past several weeks underscore America’s steadfast commitment to the continent’s stability and security,” Wortman added. “Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and as the rest of the world enjoys summer holiday, our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines remain poised and ready to respond to any crisis or contingency.”