US Army 405th AFSB sends floating bridge and boats to Poland for Defender-Europe 22

During training exercises and real-world operations in Europe, the 405th Army Field Support Brigade (AFSB) is often tasked with issuing Army Prepositioned Stocks-2 equipment, trucks and armored vehicles to rotational forces and deploying units. Humvees, tanks, armored fighting vehicles, line-haul trucks, construction equipment and more – it’s all part of the 405th AFSB’s APS-2 equipment sets. Pretty much anything and everything – even bridges and boats. Cameron Porter, U.S. Army, reports.
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A contractor assigned to U.S. Army Field Support Battalion-Mannheim, 405th Army Field Support Brigade, guides a bridge transporter carrying a bridge erection boat and boat cradle in Radom, Poland, April 28. (Picture source: U.S. Army/ Maj. Leonard Weschler)

Recently, U.S. Army’s 405th AFSB’s Mannheim and Benelux battalions worked together to prepare, ship and issue an entire bridge system for the 74th Multi-Role Bridge Company, deployed from Fort Hood, Texas, to Poland for Defender-Europe 22.

For the first time ever, an entire float ribbon bridge system from the APS-2 worksite in Zutendaal, Belgium, was transported to Poland and issued to a U.S.-based MRBC deployed to Europe for training. More than 150 major bridge system end items were issued to the 74th MRBC, 62nd Engineer Battalion, for the multinational training exercise at an Equipment Configuration and Hand-off Area in Radom during the last week of April.

This included over a dozen bridge erection boats and boat cradles, over 40 bridge bays and adapter pallets, and more than 40 bridge transporters. In addition, more than 400 other APS-2 items were issued to the bridge company – things like weapons, radios, generators and even a bulldozer – as well as thousands of repair parts, basic issue items and tools.

Army Maj. Leonard Weschler is the Army Field Support Battalion-Mannheim executive officer, but for this mission in support of the III Corps bridge company assigned to the 36th Engineer Brigade, Weschler was also the ECHA site officer in charge. He said that he and a small team of about 50 personnel – mostly contractors – from AFSBn-Mannheim, plus a handful of personnel from Army Field Support Battalion-Benelux, were responsible for the ECHA operations in Radom and the issue of the bridge system, which when erected and launched can extend up to 210 meters.

The command and control and the contracted workforce came from AFSBn-Mannheim, said Weschler, but the quality assurance officers and the accountable officer came from AFSBn-Benelux’s Zutendaal site, where the float ribbon bridge system is normally stored: “We were able to all meet up during two separate pre-deployment site surveys so we had a good relationship and mutual understanding of each other’s roles and responsibilities”, Weschler said. “That was instrumental. The second PDSS allowed us to refine the previous assessment and helped ensure we were successful. And this mission truly showed the flexibility within our brigade,” Weschler added.

And the mission command expertise AFSBn-Mannheim demonstrated during the EHCA issue acts as a stepping stone for the battalion when it re-designates to AFSBn-Poland and assumes command and control of the new APS-2 worksite currently under construction in Powidz, Poland. “Opportunities to gain knowledge on how to operate in Poland is critical for my battalion,” Weschler said. ”Gaining this experience and knowledge will help us be successful and help us further build relationships here in Poland.”

Weschler said his battalion was able to increase the speed of the issue by allowing the gaining tactical unit – the 74th MRBC – to conduct inspections on all the equipment 24 hours in advance of the issue. And based on other lessons learned from recent APS-2 operations in Europe, the battalion was able to expedite the speed of the issue even more. “It took a total of three and half hours to complete the actual issue,” said Christopher Hatch, the ECHA site accountable officer. “It was executed very well, very efficiently.”

Hatch, who normally serves as the director of supply and transportation at AFSBn-Benelux’s Zutendaal APS-2 site, said it was a total team effort. The AFSBn-Mannheim contractors and the Soldiers from the gaining tactical unit supported the effort flawlessly by setting the grids and making sure the equipment was ready for the hand-off.

Hatch said he believes the mission went well for a number of reasons – one being that AFSBn-Benelux recently conducted ECHA operations in Poland with elements from the XVIII Airborne Corps in support of assuring and deter operations in Europe. And AFSBn-Mannheim outfitted an entire armored brigade combat team deployed to Germany from the U.S. in late February and early March with a full complement of APS-2 equipment, including Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles.

The commander of AFSBn-Mannheim, Lt. Col. Brian Astwood, stressed to the Soldiers of 74th MRBC how important they are to operations in Europe when he visited the ECHA site and observed operations. He made sure the soldiers understood they were bringing a vital capability and expertise to Europe that doesn’t exist here without them and the APS-2 equipment sets.

Thanks in part to the battalion commander’s encouraging words, it’s apparent the MRBC Soldiers from Fort Hood are “super excited to exercise and display their capabilities during Defender-Europe 22 – not only to the U.S. Army but also to our Allies and our adversaries within the theater,” Weschler said.

Defender-Europe 22 is a series of U.S. Army Europe and Africa multinational training exercises within the U.S. European Command’s Large Global Scale Exercise construct taking place in Eastern Europe. Defender-Europe 22 demonstrates U.S. Army Europe and Africa’s ability to conduct large-scale ground combat operations across multiple theaters in support of NATO and the U.S. National Defense Strategy.

The 405th AFSB is assigned to U.S. Army Sustainment Command and under the operational control of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command, U.S. Army Europe and Africa. The brigade is headquartered in Kaiserslautern, Germany, and provides materiel enterprise support to U.S. Forces throughout Europe and Africa – providing theater sustainment logistics; synchronizing acquisition, logistics and technology; and leveraging the U.S. Army Materiel Command materiel enterprise to support joint forces.