Academic journal article Military Review

Enabling Brigade Combat Team Success in Europe: Lessons Learned

Academic journal article Military Review

Enabling Brigade Combat Team Success in Europe: Lessons Learned

Article excerpt

Russia's 2014 illegal occupation of Crimea, its invasion of eastern Ukraine, and its persistent provocations of its neighboring states suggest that it intends to permanently redefine national boundaries within Europe.1 In response to this growing threat, the U.S. Army has dramatically increased its presence throughout the region.

As part of that increase, in the past two years, U.S. Army Europe has engaged in an aggressive exercise program designed to demonstrate American capability and deter further aggression, has established an enduring rotation of an armor brigade within Europe, and has permanently enhanced its presence in the Baltics and Poland.2 These initiatives have significantly increased the likelihood that units not permanently assigned to Europe will gain exposure to the European operating environment.

Units generally deploy to Europe as part of a brigade combat team (BCT), and the engineer, intelligence, and signal capabilities of the brigade engineer battalion (BEB) are the backbone of a BCT's expeditionary capability. These assets provide the brigade the ability to locate and anticipate threat activity, increase survivability, provide mobility, and fix adversaries. They give the commander the ability to synchronize the effects on the battlefield and are critical to the success of any BCT operation. The lessons hereafter discussed are distilled from twenty-four months of repeated deployments across the European theater by the 54th BEB of the 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), or IBCT (A). These ten lessons are offered as suggestions designed to increase the success of other BCTs operating within the region:

* Arrive with a plan to build readiness.

* Become a student of the Russian way of war.

* Prepare for decentralized operations.

* Develop an interoperability framework.

* Integrate strategic messaging into all activities.

* Be prepared to provide mission command for maneuver elements.

* Invest in route reconnaissance.

* Employ the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to build counter-UAV tactics, techniques, and procedures.

* Develop beyond-line-of-sight mission command expertise.

* Change the UAV paradigm.

Arrive with a Plan to Build Readiness

Europe provides unparalleled opportunities to build readiness and train leaders. During its two years of deployment experience, the 54th BEB engaged in live-fire exercises in Ukraine, Poland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Turkey, Italy, Slovenia, and France. As part of these exercises, the battalion conducted live airfield repair operations in France and Germany, detonated ordnance to create complex abatis countermobility obstacles using live trees in a forested environment, constructed fuel-oil demolition charges, employed antipersonnel obstacle breaching systems, and developed techniques for the Shadow UAV to observe and adjust fire from 105 mm and 155 mm howitzers. The battalion flew UAVs in the Baltics, Germany, Poland, and along Europe's southern flank. The 54th BEB also supported three decisive action training environment (DATE) rotations serving under various multinational headquarters, and it participated in an organic 173rd IBCT (A) DATE rotation at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC) in Hohenfels, Germany.

Many of the countries hosting training events with U.S. forces are aggressive in capitalizing on the opportunity and optimizing their time in this unique training environment. Additionally, many countries are unencumbered by the regulatory restrictions present in other training locations. Most partners will invest significant energy and the necessary resources to maximize training opportunities.

Arriving with a predetermined set of key training objectives and ensuring these objectives are integrated into the design of exercises during initial and mid-planning conferences will significantly increase the effectiveness of any training event. Importantly, units should leverage the subject-matter expertise located within 7th Army Training Command and JMRC during such planning. …

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