US Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command loads first DEFENDER-Europe 21 equipment

The U.S. Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command is once again moving cargo to Europe in support of the DEFENDER-Europe 21 exercise. A Total-Force team of active-duty, National Guard and Reserve Soldiers, civilians and commercial partners began loading the Military Sealift Command’s U.S. Naval Ship Bob Hope on March 24, 2021, in support of Immediate Response, a linked exercise to DEFENDER-Europe 21, at the port of Jacksonville. This is the first of four outbound port missions in support of the exercise for the 841st Transportation Battalion, 597th Transportation Brigade and SDDC headquarters. Kimberly Spinner reports on U.S. Army’s website.
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A stevedore at the Port of Jacksonville drives a military vehicle onto the U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command's USNS Bob Hope March 26, 2021. (Picture source: U.S. Army/Kimberly Spinner)

DEFENDER-Europe is an annual large-scale U.S. Army-led, multinational, joint exercise designed to build readiness and interoperability between U.S., NATO and partner militaries. This year’s exercise utilizes key ground and maritime routes bridging Europe, Asia and Africa.

This overarching exercise is defensive in nature, integrating approximately 30,000 multinational forces from 27 nations conducting nearly simultaneous operations across more than 30 training areas in 12 countries. During the exercise, U.S. forces will demonstrate their ability to serve as strategic security partners in the western Balkans and Black Sea regions while sustaining operations in northern Europe, the Caucasus, Ukraine and Africa. “For the last few months, our battalion has been preparing for operations in support of DEFENDER-Europe 21,” said Maj. Andrew Deel, 841st Transportation Battalion operations officer. At the port of Jacksonville, the [Total Force team] uploaded the 53d Infantry Combat Team in support of their joint-logistic-over-the-shore deployment to Albania,” Deel added.

JLOTS operations is part of U.S. Transportation Command’s strategic sealift mission. The LOTS process allows combined Army and Navy forces to move equipment to and from a ship on air-cushioned watercraft to overcome anti-access and area-denial challenges and improves the ability to move forces closer to tactical assembly areas.

“Following operations here in Jacksonville, the USNS Bob Hope will go up to Portsmouth, Virginia, where we will upload the 7th Transportation Brigade, as well as a Navy cargo-handling battalion,” said Deel. “It’s a mission-critical task for the 7th Sustainment Brigade to be able to load and discharge the vessel and then conduct their own onward movement,” said Lt. Col. Altwon Whitfield, 841st Transportation Battalion commander.

SDDC and their Total Force team, made up of Army Reserve, Army National Guard and commercial partners, loaded around 750 pieces of cargo, including containers and rolling stock onto the ship. The U.S. military depends on sealift like this to project and sustain forces around the world, providing the means to deter regional aggression, to protect U.S. national interests, and to achieve U.S. strategic goals. SDDC gets equipment to the fight – rapidly and efficiently – from fort to port and port to the tactical edge. "Supporting DEFENDER-Europe 21 is a great opportunity,” said Maj. Mark Huey, 841st Transportation Battalion terminal management team officer in charge. “The mission integrates units from the Reserve, National Guard and active duty, then also units on the naval side. We really get to exercise our full functionality.”

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Florida National Guard’s 53d Infantry Brigade Combat Team equipment and vehicles are prepositioned to be loaded on the Port of Jacksonville. The Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command is moving around 750 vehicles from this port in support of DEFENDER-Europe 21. (Picture source: U.S. Army/Kimberly Spinner)