By Army Spc. Kelsey Little
U.S. Army Europe
THESSALONIKI, Greece, Feb. 27, 2017 — Eight UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and more than 70 other pieces of equipment arrived at the Port of Thessaloniki here Feb. 25 as part of the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade’s nine month rotational deployment in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve.
OAR was designed to reassure European allies in light of Russia’s invasion in Ukraine.
The helicopters arriving in Greece are part of a European theater rotation that includes armor and air assets that began arriving in January. The troops will train with the United States’ allies and partners as well as respond to crises, should it be required. This is the first full aviation regionally allocated force to OAR and U.S. Army Europe.
“This is a great opportunity for interactions between Greek and American soldiers in order to develop capacity, share lessons, and hone expertise,” said U.S. Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt, who visited the port to observe and talk with U.S. and Greek military leaders and the soldiers of the 10th CAB.
U.S. military units are working with NATO allies and partners in Poland, the Baltic states, Bulgaria, Romania and Germany for rotational deployments focusing on training, exercises and maintenance.
“This is the most successful alliance in the history of the world,” said Army Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the USAREUR commander. “The port of Thessaloniki is a gateway into Europe, and Atlantic armies could not prosper without our allies.”
USAREUR’s preparation for an increased presence across the European theater contributes to and strengthens the alliance’s deterrence and defense. The forward presence of U.S. troops is essential to assure allies, deter adversaries and be postured to act in a timely manner if deterrence fails.
“Deterrence is about the agility of the United States Army. These helicopters came from Fort Drum, New York, and just hours after the aircraft are coming off of the ship they are going to fly away from here and in about three days they are going to conduct an air assault operation in Romania,” Hodges said. “In such a short amount of time, that kind of agility is central to what we do.”
The 10th CAB is arriving at three seaports and three airports throughout February and early March. This facilitation of movement has been assisted by multiple agencies ranging from military logistics units to civilian counterparts and in this instance, Greek Allies.
“This operation is the first time in recent years that the U.S. Army has used the port of Thessaloniki,” said Army Lt. Col. Jason Alvis, the 839th Transportation Battalion commander.
The port was a primary Kosovo Force cargo entry point from 1999-2001, when NATO allies processed more than 557 ships.
Greek military aviators and key leaders welcomed their military allies and said they were looking forward to working together more often. During the assembly of helicopters, American crew chiefs and pilots invited their Greek counterparts to engage in the action and medics from both countries exchanged knowledge of tactics, techniques and procedures.
“This is great opportunity to enhance our cooperation,” said Greek Army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Alkiviadis Stefanis. “The Greek position offers stability, and we also offer the Alliance and the professionalism of our Soldiers. We are very proud to have you here and we are looking forward to enhancing our cooperation.”