Operation ‘’Atlantic Resolve’’
Since April 2014 US Army Europe has led the Department of Defenses Atlantic Resolve efforts by rotating units based in the United States to Europe for nine months at any given time. Enabled and funded by the European Deterrence Initiative (EDI), the US Army support to Operation Atlantic Resolve consists of approximately 6.000 soldiers assigned to armored, aviation and logistical task forces overseen by a division headquarters (forward) based in Poznan Poland. Active duty, reserve and National Guard units rotate from the United States with their vehicles, helicopters and other required equipment for nine months at a time. These heel – to – toe deployments ensure US Army forces to maintain a consistent combat credible presence to deter aggression in the region and is evidence of the strong and persistent US commitment to the NATO alliance and Europe. The rotational units conduct bilateral joint and multinational training exercises across more than a dozen countries including : Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and the United Kingdom.
3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division
The 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade is based at Hunter Army Airfield, Savannah which is part of Fort Steward and is located in the state of Georgia. The 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, 3 Infantry Division was the Aviation Brigade coming over to Europe for Operation Atlantic Resolve this time. It is the seventh rotation from the US. Army coming over to Europe from the United States and is the fifth heel- to-toe US. Army deployment of a full Combat Aviation Brigade to the European theatre.
Journey to mainland Europe
While most of the 1.700 personnel of the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade were flown in from the United States to Europe, the vehicles, helicopters and other required equipment of the 3rd CAB was shipped to Europe. 75 of the helicopters from the 3rd CAB were flown from their home base Hunter Army Airfield to the port of Savannah Georgia. From there they were loaded onboard the roll-on roll-off cargo ship ‘’Endurance’’ from the American company ARC. The American company ARC is specialized in this sort of difficult jobs and works for the US Department of Defense more often for these type of operations. The roll- on roll-off cargo ship ‘’Endurance’’ is the biggest in the fleet of the ARC. The ‘’Endurance’’ transported 75 helicopters, 2.000 vehicles, numerous containers and other pieces of equipment of the 3rd CAB to Europe.
On October 14th 2019, the ‘’Endurance’’ arrived at the port of Zeebrugge, Belgium. As usual with this sort of port operations a special compound was built in the harbor, temporarily walls where set up around the compound made of stacked sea containers. The compound was guarded by personnel of the US. Army. This is done so that the military personnel can work under safe conditions and the helicopters can be parked in a safe area. The Belgian Ministry of Defense supported the port operations of the U.S. Army by providing military personnel for assistance at the compound. During the following days numerous containers, equipment and 37 of the 75 helicopters were off loaded from the “Endurance”. As for the helicopters four CH-47F Chinooks, eight AH-64D Apaches, twenty five Blackhawks from which ten UH-60M and eight UH-60L and seven HH-60M Medvac helicopters were offloaded in the port of Zeebrugge. After offloading of the helicopters personnel of the U.S. Army started to get the helicopters ready to fly out of the harbor. The rotor blades had to be mounted on the Chinook helicopters, and engine runs had to be made by all of the helicopters. After the engine test runs were made the helicopters departed to Chievres Air Base located in Belgium. Chievres Air Base served as an intermediate staging area, from there the helicopters departed to their forward operating bases across Europe. After the offloading was finished, the ‘’Endurance’’ departed the port of Zeebrugge and headed for their next destination, the port of Volos in Greece. In the port of Volos they offloaded the other required equipment and the other thirty eight helicopters of the 3rd CAB. From there the helicopters departed to their forward operating bases.
Exercises round Europe
During their Atlantic Resolve deployment in Europe the 3rd CAB participated in 12 multinational exercises, including: Combined Resolve, Hawk Strike and Defender Europe 2020. The exercise Defender Europe 2020 is the largest deployment of U.S. based forces to Europe in more than 25 years. The 3rd CAB also participated in Operation Titanomachy which was held at the Litochoro training range in Greece. This exercise consisted of live firing from helicopters of the Hellenic Army Aviation Forces and helicopters from the U.S. Army’s 3rd CAB. Also a lot of training was undertaken in Eastern Europe, the Baltic States and Germany. In Germany much of the training was done at the military training area’s in Hohenfels and Grafenwöhr working closely together with the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade of the U.S. Army Europe (USAREUR). In the last 9 months of their deployment period the 3rd CAB executed over 10.000 flight hours during exercises round Europe! All in all the 3rd CAB had a very busy schedule during their stay in Europe!
End of operations from the 3rd CAB in the European theatre
During the last weeks of their deployment the helicopters of 3rd CAB left their forward operating bases in Eastern Europe and the Baltics and flew to their main operating hub of their deployment at Illesheim Army Airfield located in Germany to join the rest of the helicopters of the 3rd CAB. From here the helicopters were made ready for their final flights in the European theatre. While most of the helicopters made a stop at Eindhoven Air Base in the Netherlands before they departed for their last flight to the Port of Rotterdam in The Netherlands, some of the helicopters made a stop at a U.S. air base in Germany and flew directly to the port of Rotterdam instead of making a stop at Eindhoven Airbase. At the port of Rotterdam a special compound was set up, the same sort of compound which was set up in the Port of Zeebrugge. Personnel of the Dutch Ministry of Defense supported the port operations of the 3rd CAB, Dutch military personnel guarded the compound in the port of Rotterdam, while the fire brigade of the Royal Netherlands Air Force supported the daily flight operations in the harbor. After all of the helicopters and other equipment arrived in the port of Rotterdam the mighty roll-on roll-off cargo ship ‘’Endurance’ came to the port of Rotterdam to pick up all the helicopters and equipment of the 3rd CAB and transported everything back to the United States.
Before the helicopters of the 3rd CAB departed Germany for their journey to the port of Rotterdam, the Apache squadron of the 3rd CAB, the 3-17 CAV handed over 14 of their newer AH-64D Apaches to the 1-3 AVN, the Apache squadron of the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade of the US. Army Europe (USAREUR) based at Ansbach Army Airfield located in Germany. On the other hand the 3rd CAB took 14 of the older AH-64D’s of the 1-3 AVN, 12th CAB back to the United States. Although some of these old ex 12th CAB AH-64Ds were wearing unit markings of the 3-17 CAV, as was seen when they left Europe, there is a good chance that these older AH-64D’s will end up in the U.S. Army AH-64 conversion program with Boeing helicopters.
The 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division can look back at a successful Atlantic Resolve deployment. During a transfer of authority ceremony at Illesheim Army Airfield, held on July 17th 2019, the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade based at Campbell Army Airfield, Fort Campbell in the state of Kentucky took over Operation Atlantic Resolve from the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade for the next 9 months to come.