Some 550 soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division’s 1st Armored Brigade, 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment at Fort Hood are being quickly mobilized and sent to Europe as part of a readiness drill designed to test their ability to suddenly deploy in the event of a conflict.
According to a Friday news release by US Army Europe (USAREUR), the drill is an Emergency Deployment Readiness Exercise and part of the Pentagon’s new strategy of Dynamic Force Employment (DFE). Two years ago, US military planners adopted the DFE model of making sudden or unannounced shifts in asset deployment outside of normal planned rotations as a way to keep US adversaries off-balance.
The troops are bound for the Drawsko Pomorskie Training Area, about 50 miles east of Szczecin, Poland, and will use some 55 M1A1 Abrams tanks and M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles that were already in Germany as part of Army Prepositioned Stock, but will be repositioned in Poland for the drills.
According to the release, one of the purposes of the exercise is also for the armored cavalry to test out their new Trophy active protection systems. The system was designed by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to intercept rocket propelled grenades, recoilless rifles and anti-tank guided missiles before they hit the vehicle.
The drill is part of a downscaled Defender-Europe 20 exercise. The drill was originally expected to be the third-largest military exercise in Europe since the end of the Cold War, involving some 20,000 US troops, but was canceled in March as the COVID-19 pandemic spread worldwide.
Now, however, NATO is looking to revive a scaled-down version of the exercise, expected to last from July 13 to August 22, according to USAREUR. This time around, however, just 4,000 US troops will participate.
Still, the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, and as cases in the US surge at an unprecedented rate, the wisdom of deploying hundreds of troops overseas at sudden notice, where they will be put into close contact with troops from several other countries, must be called into question.
“All appropriate COVID-19 prevention ad [sic] mitigation measures will be taken prior to and during the deployment to ensure the health and protection of participating armed forces and the local population,” the USAREUR release notes.
However, that would mean that all 550 soldiers were quarantined for two weeks prior to their deployment, so the quarantine would have started on June 30. It’s unclear how a unit’s rapid deployment ability would be tested by giving it two weeks’ notice.
The concern is especially keen given the record new cases of the novel coronavirus being detected in the US in recent days, especially in Texas, where the unit in question is based.
According to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the US has recorded more than 40,000 new COVID-19 cases per day for the last nine days, with a peak of 65,000 new cases on Wednesday. Bell County, where Fort Hood is located, has recorded more than 300 cases in the last three days, according to the Texas Department of Health.