The Army will start deploying an armored brigade combat team to Europe in 2017.
First to go are the 4,000 soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team of Fort Carson, Colorado. Once in Europe, the soldiers will support Operation Atlantic Resolve.
The Army has been building its presence in Europe in the last few years as the U.S. works to reassure its allies in the region and deter against an aggressive Russia. But this is the first time it will deploy a full armored BCT to the region for nine months at a time.
In addition to the armored BCT, the Army will continue deploying aviators, enablers and other soldiers to Europe.
The new back-to-back rotations in Europe, what the Army calls "heel-to-toe" or continuous rotations, come just five years after budget cuts forced the Army to shut down the two heavy brigades stationed in Europe and bring home all its tanks and other heavy vehicles.
It also adds an additional overseas requirement for the Army's already busy armored brigade combat teams. The active Army only has nine armored BCTs, and they already are tasked with nine-month rotations to Kuwait and South Korea. The Army National Guard has five armored BCTs.
To help alleviate some of the pressure, the Army announced that is it converting the 3rd Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team into an armored brigade combat team. The Fort Stewart, Georgia-based brigade is now an infantry BCT; the conversion is expected to be completed next summer.
The Army also has transitioned the 1st Armored Division's 2nd BCT from a training role with the Brigade Modernization Command back to the operational force. The brigade, which now falls under Army Forces Command, will begin a rotation in August at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. The BCT is expected to deploy after its training.
Michelle Tan is the editor of Army Times and Air Force Times. She has covered the military for Military Times since 2005, and has embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Haiti, Gabon and the Horn of Africa.