The shoulder patch of the 173rd Brigade Combat Team. (Army)
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A company of soldiers from the 173rd Brigade Combat Team is ready to respond within 18 hours to contingencies in Europe and Africa.
The Army Contingency Response Force was stood up following guidance this spring from senior Army leaders; the 173rd took on the mission Oct. 1, said Lt. Gen. Donald Campbell, commanding general of U.S. Army Europe.
“This is in response to a requirement from the Department of the Army to make sure we have that capability ready to go,” Campbell said. “It’s another unit the [combatant] commander has at his disposal if they were called upon for a small-scale contingency or to support an embassy or something along those lines.”
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno issued his guidance to the Army service component commands this year, said Col. Frederick Jessen, the chief of operations for USAREUR.
“The world is a dangerous place, to include parts of the [European Command] area of operations, and there was a gap to a requirement,” Jessen said. “The Army chief of staff, with prudent planning, looked at that and charged his Army service component commanders to provide a capability to fill that gap.”
The USAREUR contingency response force appears to be similar to Africa Command’s East Africa Response Force based at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti.
The EARF, made up mostly of soldiers from 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, was stood up this summer to respond to contingencies such as the September 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.
The EARF is designed to respond rapidly within East Africa, which includes Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Tanzania and Uganda.
If needed, the EARF can be sent wherever the commander deems necessary across Africa, and its forward positioning makes it more regionally responsive than a force that’s based in the U.S. or Europe.
The contingency response force in Europe was stood up in early summer, with soldiers from 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, Campbell said.
The battalion typically serves as the opposing force at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Germany.
“We trained them and put them through some exercises,” Campbell said. “We alerted them, tested and trained them, tested our systems to get them out the door. And we’ll look for the 173rd to train their capabilities and make sure we have the systems in place to push them out.”
The 173rd, based in Vicenza, Italy, took on the yearlong mission Oct. 1 after resetting from its recent deployment to Afghanistan.
Officials have not determined who might take over from the 173rd, but a likely candidate is the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, currently in Afghanistan.
As it stands, the company from the 173rd is prepared to conduct full-spectrum operations, from humanitarian assistance to combat operations, Jessen said.
He declined to identify the unit within the 173rd designated for the mission, but said it was an infantry company. He anticipates the brigade commander will rotate the mission among companies.
The brigade is scheduled for a decisive action training rotation at the JMRC in November, and the soldiers likely will focus on non-combatant evacuation operations, humanitarian assistance and fixed-site security, Jessen said.