US Army travels through
In late November 2021, the US Army started a relocation of vehicles, containers and helicopters from Europe to the United States and vice versa. Since April 2014, U.S. Army Europe and Africa has led the Department of Defense’s Atlantic Resolve land efforts by bringing units based in the U.S. to Europe for nine months at a time. Since the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014, the United States presence in Europe has been strengthened. There are approximately 6,000 Soldiers participating in Atlantic Resolve at any given time, conducting operations and exercises across seventeen countries. These deployments of ready, combat-credible U.S. forces to Europe in support of Atlantic Resolve is evidence of the strong and unremitting U.S. commitment to NATO and Europe.
This time about 40 helicopters, including CH-47 Chinooks, UH-60 & HH-60 Black Hawks and AH-64 Apaches, from the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division flew from the port of Vlissingen to Germany. At the same time, about sixty helicopters from the 1st Infantry Division of the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade of the same types traveled in the opposite direction to eventually return by ship to the United States. The helicopters that flew from Vlissingen to Germany made a stopover at the Woensdrecht Air Base and the helicopters that returned from Germany to the United States made a stopover in The Netherlands at the Gilze-Rijen Air Base. In addition to the helicopters that arrived at Vlissingen, about 2000 vehicles such as jeeps and trucks and hundreds of containers were also brought by the same ship. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the soldiers traveling with the military transport stayed in isolation at the port of Vlissingen.
After docking of the ship ARC Endurance at the port of Vlissingen on Thursday, November 25, the helicopters from the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division were temporarily housed in a hangar of Verbrugge Zeeland Terminals. There the shoppers were prepared one by one by military personnel for their flight to the Woensdrecht Air Base. A temporary departure and landing zone was also created on a quay of Verbrugge Zeeland Terminals from which the helicopters could depart and land. Some sixty Dutch soldiers were responsible for the security of the temporary military base at the port of Vlissingen. Besides the port of Vlissingen, another part of the equipment of the 1st Cavalry Division came to Europe by the port of Alexandroupoli in Greece. The ability of the United States to conduct a major deployment from two different locations in Europe provides a strong and powerful signal to Russia.
The first helicopters from the 1st Infantry Division of the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade arrived from Germany to the Gilze-Rijen Air Base on Monday, November 22. Due to bad weather in Illesheim, Germany, about thirty helicopters left later than planned and arrived at Gilze-Rijen Air Base in the late afternoon and during sunset. Especially for the stopover of the helicopters of the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, the shorter runway at the Gilze-Rijen Air Base was temporarily closed so the helicopters could be stationed there. The second group of US Army helicopters arrived at the Gilze-Rijen Air Base on November 29th.
Text & photos: Kris Christiaens