In Army First, Brigade and All of Its Gear Is Headed to Europe for Major Exercise

U.S. Army M2 Bradleys wait to be loaded for DEFENDER Europe-20.
U.S. Army M2 Bradleys wait to be loaded onto American Roll-On Roll-Off Carrier Endurance for DEFENDER Europe-20 on Feb. 7, 2020 in Savannah, Ga. (U.S. Army/Pfc. Daniel Alkana)

The U.S. Army recently deployed the first full brigade combat team with all of its equipment to Germany to take part in DEFENDER-Europe 20, a large-scale exercise designed to hone the service's prowess in rapid-deployment operations.

The 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, out of Fort Stewart, Georgia, is part of a division-size force of 20,000 U.S. soldiers that will descend upon Europe over the next few months in the largest deployment of U.S. land forces in the last 25 years.

Unlike exercises in the past, the 3rd ID unit deployed with all of its M1 tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles and other equipment.

"There has been a pattern in Europe that has been generated where a unit would draw equipment or take only a portion of what a brigade combat team might have," Col. Scott O'Neal, commander of 2nd BCT, said in a recent Army news release. "However, we are bringing our entire brigade combat team, all of our personnel and equipment."

Other units participating in DEFENDER-Europe will draw equipment from Army Prepositioned Stocks located throughout the region.

Related: The Army Is Increasing Combat Gear Stockpiles in Europe and Pacific

For the past two years, Army leaders have stressed the need for the service to build its strategic readiness by increasing the amount of no-notice Emergency Deployment Response Exercises (EDRE) as well as conducting DEFENDER-Europe this year and a similar exercise in the Pacific scheduled for fiscal 2021.

"We have increased our [EDRE] as well as our DEFENDER-series exercises," Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told an audience at a Feb. 21 event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"We take a [U.S.-based] unit and send them to the Pacific as well as the European theaters, so we have increased the rotational deployments to the areas of the world where we have a particular competition play, if you will, against near-peer competitors," he added.

The Army has budgeted more than $300 million in the operations and maintenance account for the fiscal 2021 budget request to fund these exercises, McCarthy said at a Feb. 14 speech at the National Press Club.

"The Army's ability to rapidly mobilize, deploy and sustain combat forces ... gives us the advantage over threats and potential adversaries," he said.

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at

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