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National Defense > Blog > Posts > Army’s Role In Europe Still Essential, Says Commander
Army’s Role In Europe Still Essential, Says Commander
By Valerie Insinna

Despite a presidential debate on national security with little mention of Europe, the U.S. Army’s top commander in Europe contends that the Defense Department’s strategic shift to the Asia-Pacific doesn’t mean a pivot away from the region.

U.S. forces in Europe are still integral to national security, said Lt. Gen. Mark P. Hertling, commander of U.S. Army Europe during an Oct. 23 roundtable with defense reporters. He cited the U.S. Army Europe’s control of the northern distribution network, which transports supplies to troops in Afghanistan, and bilateral exercises with Israeli forces that began Oct. 21.

As part of broad plan to reorganize Army forces, the service is withdrawing two of its brigades from Europe. One of those units is already inactive, Hertling said. “The decision was made in terms of the two brigades. I would have preferred to have kept them, both of them.”

Hertling believes the Army will be able to accomplish its mission in Europe regardless, he said.

"We have actually saved more money in Europe by doing what we've done over the last 10 years than they did in the combined BRAC [Base Realignment and Closing] of 2005,” he said. “We've estimated we've saved $9.5 billion in terms of consolidation of forces in the European footprint."

He said he worries that cost-cutting efforts could undermine U.S. military capabilities.

"If you take a look at national security, it's a three legged stool that concerns military power, diplomatic power, and economic power,” he said. “And my biggest concern is that we're going to have an unbalanced stool, if you will, with one leg being more important than the other two."

With more than 100,000 Syrian refugees on the Turkish border, U.S. Army Europe personnel have been sharing intelligence with Turkey. U.S. forces could potentially be used for a noncombatant evacuation operation, which would entail helicopters, trucks, logistics and other nonlethal support, Hertling said.

"That could be applied potentially if asked, but no one has asked me to do that yet,” he said.

On the subject of Russia, Hertling acknowledged that the military-to-military relationship has been strained over the past years, but said he sees a “glimmer of hope” that ties will improve.

Hertling does not view Russia as a threat because the Russian military has “significant problems,” but said it has a “stranglehold” on many European nations through its control of oil and gas.


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