GRAFENWOEHR, Germany , –
Landing in Germany with his platoon for DEFENDER-Europe 21, everything he’s focused on, from his arrival to the unit five months ago until now, has been this mission. But what’s interesting – he and his platoon deployed here with no vehicles and no way to communicate.
Instead of shipping their vehicles and communications gear from their home station at Fort Bragg, N.C., 2nd Lt. Kristopher Imhof and his Soldiers received everything they’ll need to conduct their mission in support of DEFENDER-Europe 21 from the 405th Army Field Support Brigade’s Army Prepositioned Stock-2.
The platoon is conducting its APS-2 draw today, said Imhof, a platoon leader with B Company, 50th Expeditionary Signal Battalion (Enhanced). The Soldiers are conducting preventive maintenance checks and services on their Humvees and inventorying all the basic issue items. They have to install the radio mounts and radio systems and conduct radio checks. And then from there, the team chiefs and the drivers will sign for their vehicles and equipment.
Everything the 50th ESB (E) Soldiers were issued originated from an APS-2 site in Eygelshoven, Netherlands. The 405th AFSB’s Army Field Support Battalion-Benelux prepared the vehicles and equipment for line haul movement from Eygelshoven to Grafenwoehr Training Area, and a small team from AFSBn-Benelux also made their way from Eygelshoven to Grafenwoehr to assist with the issue.
Meanwhile, all the operational planning and site preparation at Grafenwoehr Training Area was executed by the 405th AFSB’s Army Field Support Battalion-Germany. The battalion – headquartered in Vilseck, Germany – worked to ensure a proper Equipment Configuration and Handling Area, or ECHA, was established where the vehicles and equipment could be expeditiously and efficiently issued to the 50th ESB (E).
“It’s extremely important,” said Imhof. “The work they’ve done is critical. All this preparation and support helps us and allows us to focus on our Defender 21 mission.”
“My platoon is providing signal support to six separate units during DEFENDER-Europe 21,” said Imhof, a 2020 graduate of Baylor University’s ROTC program.
“I have a team supporting each one of those six units, and each team is equipped with a scalable network node that will provide secure and non-secure network communications to include email, data, phone and video conference capabilities,” he said.
According to Imhof, during DEFENDER-Europe 21, his platoon will be tasked with supporting two digital liaison detachments, two assault helicopter battalions, the 7th Army Training Command and the 82nd Airborne Division.
“All my teams are excited and confident. We’ve been focusing on the mission and making sure everything is ready to go,” said Imhof, who grew up as an Army dependent – his father a retired field artillery colonel.
One of Imhof’s team chiefs is Spc. Dylan Darlington, whose team will be in Bosnia during the DEFENDER-Europe 21. Other teams will be in Hungary and Romania. Darlington said he’s excited to set up and operate the new network node kits they were issued in November.
“We used to tow a satellite terminal, which is a 4- to 6-meter antennae dish on top of a trailer that would route through a joint network node into servers and stacks in another Humvee,” said Darlington, a native of Big Sandy, Montana. “Now we can fit everything we need into five cases and go anywhere with them. The fact that we can move with these quickly and they take up a very small footprint – and the set up time is much shorter – it allows us to be much more efficient.”
Two of Darlington’s Soldiers just arrived to the unit so they haven’t had much time with these new kits, he said.
“We were pretty much up against the wire getting everything ready for this mission so we are really trying to take advantage of all the time that we have here before our mission starts,” said Darlington. “The fact that we have all this APS equipment – all these vehicles, trailers and radios here waiting for us – helps us out a lot.”
“We just fell unto the gear,” he said.
“I’m excited for this mission,” said Darlington. “I think it’ll be as good opportunity to stress test these kits as well as my team. Defender 21 is going to be a challenge every day.”
APS – FUTURE OPERATIONS
The Army is moving more toward forward issue, using forward-stationed and forward-deployed APS sites and ECHAs as much as possible, said Col. Brad Bane, the commander of the 405th AFSB.
The commanding general of U.S. Army Materiel Command said an ECHA should look exactly like what a Soldier would see at his or her own motor pool when they’re getting issued a piece of equipment – everything ready to go and everything dress right dress, Bane said.
“This is a professional layout – picture this on a scale of two Armored Brigade Combat Teams and all the fires equipment and all the (combat service support),” Bane said about the ECHA in Grafenwoehr.
“It’s really important – the work you’re doing,” Bane said to the teams from AFSBn-Benelux and AFSBn-Germany supporting the APS-2 issue. “I appreciate the entire team being out here – the contractors, local national employees, and the Soldiers and Army civilians.”
“Us as logisticians, this is our profession right here,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Kofie Primus, 405th AFSB command sergeant major. “This is where we make our bread and butter, supporting the warriors. A lot of work went into this, and I’m glad to see it go from the (Rehearsal of Concept) drill to executing the mission on the ground.”
DEFENDER-Europe 21 consists of several regularly occurring U.S. Army Europe and Africa led training exercises to include Swift Response, Immediate Response, Saber Guardian, and a Command Post Exercise. DEFENDER-Europe 21 operationalizes National Defense Strategy and NATO deterrence objectives to build readiness by demonstrating U.S., allied and partnered nations’ ability to quickly respond to crisis through the rapid deployment of a combat credible force. DEFENDER-Europe 21 demonstrates that the U.S. commitment to NATO is iron clad, that NATO allies and partners stand stronger together, and is a prime example of our collective capabilities. About 28,000 multinational forces from 26 nations are scheduled to conduct nearly simultaneous operations across more than 30 training areas in 14 countries during DEFENDER-Europe 21.
The 405th AFSB is assigned to U.S. Army Sustainment Command and under the operational control of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command, U.S. Army Europe and Africa. The brigade is headquartered in Kaiserslautern, Germany, and provides materiel enterprise support to U.S. Forces throughout Europe and Africa – providing theater sustainment logistics; synchronizing acquisition, logistics and technology; and leveraging the U.S. Army Materiel Command materiel enterprise to support joint forces. For more information on the 405th AFSB, visit the official website at www.afsbeurope.army.mil and the official Facebook site at www.facebook.com/405thAFSB.