The planned deployment of 30,000 Army troops to Europe for April and May’s Defender-Europe 20 exercises has been halted at 6,000 personnel, U.S. European Command said in a statement.
As well as soldiers, a division headquarters and an armored brigade combat team are already in Europe, as well as 9,000 vehicles and pieces of equipment from Army Prepositioned Stocks and 3,000 pieces of equipment shipped from the United States.
The statement that, in coordination with Allies and partners, soldiers and equipment from multiple ports have been positioned at training areas in Germany and Poland.
The new plan calls for the armored brigade combat team already deployed to Europe to 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.
Other linked exercises to Exercise Defender-Europe 20 — Dynamic Front, Joint Warfighting Assessment, Saber Strike and Swift Response — will not be conducted.
US European Command said the decision to modiofy the size and scope of Defender-Europe 20 was taken in response to the current outbreak of the COVID-19 virus and recent guidance by the Secretary of Defense.
“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.”
Press Release – In response to the current outbreak of the #COVID19 virus and recent guidance by @EsperDoD, we have modified exercise #DefenderEurope 20 in size and scope: https://t.co/uH32FxAz0D pic.twitter.com/fEgatuvo3v
— U.S European Command (@US_EUCOM) March 16, 2020
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, U.S. European Command said.
News of the troop movement, which was being carried without Corona Virus masks and similar precautions, drew criticism from Europeans that the Army was not taking the best care of its soldiers.