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Marine Corps Sending Tanks, Artillery and Combat Vehicles to Bulgaria

Members of 2nd Tank Battalion conduct gunnery qualification training at Camp Lejune (Photo: Olivia McDonald/ Marine Corps)
Members of 2nd Tank Battalion conduct gunnery qualification training at Camp Lejune (Photo: Olivia McDonald/ Marine Corps)

The U.S. Marine Corps has received tanks, artillery and light armored reconnaissance vehicles in Germany as part of a broader effort to move equipment across the continent to Eastern Europe.

The heavy equipment arrived in Bremerhaven, Germany, Aug.16, and is bound for Bulgaria, according to a statement from the Corps. 

"The tanks, artillery, and light armored reconnaissance vehicles will be loaded on trains and moved across Europe demonstrating our allies' and international partners' ability to move heavy equipment across the region to support operations during a crisis," it said.

The move is the latest in response to Russia's military actions in the region and support for pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine.

The arrival of heavy equipment adds to the U.S. Army arsenal already in Europe. The deployment is aimed at showing support for NATO members, allies and partners in the region, officials said.

The tanks, artillery and light-armored vehicles are part of what's called the Combined Arms Company, the statement said. More than 160 Marines will accompany the equipment, it said.

The unit will make up part of the Black Sea Rotational Force, but will be based at the Novo Selo Training Area in Bulgaria, according to the Corps.

"The transportation of a Marine Corps combined arms capability in the Black Sea region has fostered improved communication and coordination with the allied force and its partners," Lt. Col. John Sattely, director of logistics for U.S Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa, said in the statement.

"The result of this collaboration and coordination is that the various agencies and organizations involved are familiar with each other now rather than learning about one another after a crisis happens," he added.

The Black Sea Rotational Force is a semi-annual rotation of Marines and sailors available to respond to a range of military operations in the U.S. European Command area of responsibility, the statement said.

The upcoming Marine Corps exercise comes on the heels of a massive 1,800-kilometer Army convoy that drove through six countries from Estonia to Germany earlier this year as part of an exercise called the Dragoon Ride.

The Army plans on demonstrating operational mobility again next month with a similar exercise called Operation Brave Warrior, officials said. It will begin with a 700-kilometer Stryker unit convoy to demonstrate mobility from Germany across the Danube River into Hungary.

"The unit will drive its Stryker infantry vehicles from Germany through the Czech Republic and into Hungary for a series of exercises with the Hungarian Army," Buccino said. "It is an opportunity for us to strengthen our alliance and our partners in the region. The 2nd Cavalry Regiment is at the tip of the spear for our Army, building capacity with our allies in that part of the world."

While not explicitly designed to signal messages to the Russians in light of ongoing tensions in the region, the journey and the training are designed to demonstrate U.S. mobility and resolve with its allies, Army officials explained.

"Later this year, we will conduct an operation called Brave Warrior where we road march over 700 kilometers from Germany across the Danube river into Hungary. Then we are going to spend two months training with the Hungarians," Col. John Meyer, commander of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, U.S. Army Europe, has said.

-- Kris Osborn can be reached at kris.osborn@military.com

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