Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III ordered 500 more U.S. service members to be deployed to locations in Europe to augment U.S. forces that are already there, Pentagon spokesman John F. Kirby said today.
The order was issued over the weekend, and the added personnel are being positioned to respond to the security environment "caused by Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and, certainly, to help reinforce and bolster deterrence and defense capabilities of the NATO alliance," Kirby said. This movement is temporary, he added.
"[We're] going to adjust our posture continuously as the conditions require. And as [President Joe Biden] has noted before, we are not and will not send forces into Ukraine," he said. The additional personnel will go to NATO's eastern flank, and the United States will send some KC-135 refueling aircraft out of Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, [ Washington], with about 150 personnel, he said.
The troops will deploy to Souda Bay, Greece, to give added fueling support to the commander of the U.S. European Command, Kirby said, adding the 500 deployed service members will include a 40-person air and support operations center out of Fort Stewart, Georgia.
Right now, they're planning to deploy to Poland into Romania to help provide additional command and control for the U.S. European Command flight operations, Kirby said. About 300 personnel will comprise a modular ammunition ordnance company out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and a support maintenance company out of Fort Stewart, he said. They'll go to Germany to provide additional logistic support to the first Armored Brigade Combat Team 3rd Infantry Division already deployed there.
"These are purely defensive forces," Kirby said, calling the troops "enablers." "[We] said before when we deployed, the additional 7,000 [service members] that there would be associated enablers within this as part of that support. All these posture adjustments are being done … in full constant consultation with the NATO allies in question."
Additionally, Kirby noted, "[We're] going to continue to look for ways to bolster NATO, to look for innovative ways, creative ways to make sure that [Russian President Vladimir Putin] understands how seriously we take [NATO] Article V and how seriously we take our collective security requirements inside that alliance, how seriously we consider the importance of alliances and partnerships. We've invested a lot of time in the last year in revitalizing alliances and partnerships in Europe and around the world." That effort is now bearing fruit, he added.
The United States continues to see Russian air forces participate in the Ukraine invasion, Kirby said. "The [Russians] continue to launch weapons, [and] they continue to conduct attacks in support of Russian objectives inside Ukraine," he noted.
"[We] aren't seeing the level of integration between air and ground operations that you would expect to see," he said of Russian forces. "[Not] everything they're doing on the ground is being fully supported by what they're doing in the air. There does seem to be some disconnects there. So, it's not clear to us how significant their air operations are being in helping alleviate the lack of progress that they're having on the ground because they don't seem to be fully coordinated between air and ground elements," the spokesman said.