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Fort Riley aviation unit tapped for Europe rotation

The 1st Infantry Division’s combat aviation brigade from Fort Riley, Kansas, will deploy to Europe as part of a regular rotation of forces in April, the Army announced Monday.

The unit is replacing another combat aviation brigade from the 101st Airborne Division, and will serve as U.S. Army Europe-Africa’s aviation element in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve.

The majority of equipment and personnel will be stationed in Germany, with a forward presence in Latvia, Romania and Poland, the Army said.

Atlantic Resolve includes a series of exercises that have grown to span multiple countries including the three Baltic states. The mission steadily grew following Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula in 2014.

Roughly 6,000 regionally allocated soldiers participate in nine-month Atlantic Resolve rotations at any given time, according to Army Europe. The soldiers come from armored, aviation and sustainment units.

“Our brigade did this rotation two years ago, but a lot has changed,” said Capt. Bill LaCroix, a spokesman for the incoming combat aviation brigade. There are strict coronavirus pandemic precautions the unit is supposed to abide by.

Those precautions include 7-10 days of quarantine prior to departure, tests for the virus 72 hours before leaving, followed by another quarantine period in Europe and a second test for the virus, LaCroix said. Troops have also been able to receive the vaccine, he added.

The 1st Infantry Division’s combat aviation brigade will be heading to the region after Army Europe merged with Army Africa in late 2020. However, that merger hasn’t changed the mission for the troops departing for the continent in April.

“Right now, our mission set is focused strictly on Atlantic resolve,” said LaCroix. “We’re going to be supporting throughout the EUCOM” area of operations.

Merging Army Europe and Army Africa was expected by some officials Army Times spoke with to increase the influence for both commands back in Washington, D.C., as well as offer more freedom to coordinate with foreign partner nations.

Gen. Christopher Cavoli, who helms the dual command, advocated last week at the Association of the U.S. Army for an increased fires capability in Europe.

“We’re also excited about proposals for something called a ‘Theater Fires Command,’” Cavoli said, “which would develop and curate, hold custody of targets during the competitive phase, and then execute during a potential conflict.”

Cavoli didn’t offer a timeline on the proposal, which would, in layman’s terms, watch potential targets in theater and attack them with artillery or aircraft in the event of war.

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