DEFENDER-Europe 20 modified in size and scope - Official statement from U.S. Army
In response to the current outbreak of the COVID-19 virus and recent guidance by the Secretary of Defense, we have modified exercise DEFENDER-Europe 20 in size and scope. As of March 13, all movement of personnel and equipment from the United States to Europe has ceased. The health, safety and readiness of our military, civilians, and family members is our primary concern. With this decision, we continue to preserve the readiness of our force while maximizing our efforts to advance our alliances and partnerships.
A 1st Cavalry Division Sustainment Brigade ‘Wagonmaster’ Trooper ground guides a vehicle during offload operations, Port of Antwerp, Belgium, Feb. 25, 2020 (Picture source: U.S. Army/Sgt. Calab Franklin)
As we make the appropriate adjustments, the linked exercises to Exercise Defender-Europe 20 – Dynamic Front, Joint Warfighting Assessment, Saber Strike and Swift Response – will not be conducted. We anticipate 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 U.S. National Defense Strategy.
This effort has exercised the Army’s ability to coordinate large scale movements with Allies and partners. Since January, the Army deployed approximately 6,000 Soldiers from the United States to Europe including a division headquarters and an armored brigade combat team. It has moved approximately 9,000 vehicles and pieces of equipment from Army Prepositioned Stocks and approximately 3,000 pieces of equipment via sea from the United States. And, in coordination with Allies and partners, it also completed the movement of Soldiers and equipment from multiple ports to training areas in Germany and Poland.
There are many details still being worked and discussed with our Allies and partners. Changes are anticipated to the deployment timelines of Soldiers currently in Europe, redeployment of U.S.-based equipment, and the next Atlantic Resolve rotation. We will continue to provide updates as details become available about these adjustments.
AFRICOM cancels Exercise Phoenix Express
After careful consideration with exercise participants and the host nation, Exercise Phoenix Express 2020 (OE20) has been canceled for force protection considerations.
The decision not to proceed with the exercise comes in response to the global effort to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), while minimizing exposure of U.S. and partner nation service members to this virus.
U.S. Africa Command will continue to evaluate and adjust the scope of its activities as necessary to ensure the force health protection and prevent the spread of the virus.
The U.S. routinely exercises with partners in Africa to build enduring relationships and combined capacity to ensure the safety and security of the regional maritime environment. Phoenix Express, originally scheduled April 5-18 in the Mediterranean Sea, is designed to improve regional cooperation, maritime domain awareness, information-sharing practices, and operational capabilities in order to enhance efforts to promote safety and security in the Mediterranean Sea and territorial waters of participating North African nations.
Planning continues for the exercise in 2021.