More Soldiers Are Headed to Europe to Boost Long-Range Missile Capabilities

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Patriot missile launcher.
Spc. George Hollingsworth describes the Patriot missile launcher to British Defense Attache, Commander Neville McNally during a static display in Capul Midia, Romania during Saber Guardian 19, July 20, 2019. (Michigan National Guard/2nd Lt. Ashley Goodwin)

The 500 additional Army personnel the Pentagon ordered to Europe on Tuesday will make up two new units designed to bolster the long-range offensive capabilities of U.S. forces on the continent.

The additional soldiers, who are scheduled to be in place by this fall, will form a Theater Fires Command and a new Army Multi-Domain Task Force, or MDTF, at U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden, Germany, according to a Tuesday news release from U.S. Army Europe and Africa, or USAREUR-AF.

In early February, USAREUR-AF commander Gen. Chistopher Cavoli said that creating a Theater Fires Command in Europe would bring an "enormous capability" to keep track of potential targets in the region and be ready to destroy them if a conflict arises.

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The new fires command, which is in line with Army's top modernization priority of long-range precision fires, would also improve multinational interoperability by coordinating joint and multinational fires in exercises and operations, according to the release.

In addition, the force plus-up will create an MDTF -- also a hope of Cavoli's -- that will feature field artillery; composite air and missile defense; intelligence, cyberspace, electronic warfare, and space capabilities; and aviation assets designed to help commanders attack an enemy with long-range effects more effectively, according to the release.

The Army's first MDTF -- which emerged out of a pilot program -- is based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, and is focused on the Pacific region.

"The Theater Fires Command and Multi-Domain Task Force in Europe will enable U.S. Army Europe and Africa to synchronize joint fires and effects, control future long-range fires across all domains and will create more space, cyber and electronic warfare capabilities in Europe," Col. Joe Scrocca, the spokesman for U.S. Army Europe and Africa, said in the release.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced that he is sending the additional 500 soldiers and has no plans to plan to follow through with a Trump administration plan for a large withdrawal of forces from Europe.

Last year, President Donald Trump ordered the withdrawal of 12,000 troops from Germany as retribution for what he considered Germany's refusal to spend more on its own defense. Austin suspended that move shortly after taking office. He said decisions on troop levels would be made as part of a comprehensive review of the U.S. military presence around the world, including in Europe.

The U.S. currently has about 35,000 troops in Germany.

The MDTF is expected to activate on Sept. 16, and the Theater Fires Command a month later, according to the release.

In addition to the 500 soldiers, roughly 750 family members will also be relocating to Army Garrison Wiesbaden, which creates a challenge since "operational requirements are outpacing facility construction and renovations as we continue to work through setting facility conditions for the new units," according to the release.

"New strategies and a continuously changing operations environment requires more capacity to ensure we have the necessary infrastructure for increased capabilities to support our allies and partners," Maj. Gen. Chris Mohan, commanding general for 21st Theater Sustainment Command, said in the release.

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

Related: Austin: US Adds 500 Troops in Germany, Despite Trump Pledge

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