The U.S. military should reassess its force posture in Europe and reduce its reliance on revolving door-style unit rotations, a major think tank’s analysts concluded in a Monday report.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies’ transnational threat team based their study on official documents, open-source materials and interviews with subject-matter experts.

The report’s authors recommend that the Army abandon the rotational armor brigade deployment model that “eats up ... the Army’s force structure and long-term readiness.” Currently, two armor brigades are deployed to Europe. Instead, the report said, the service should permanently station an Armored Brigade Combat Team in Poland to replace one rotational unit and eliminate the remaining rotation altogether.

An Army Times investigation found that tank brigades and enlisted tank crew members were at higher risk of suicide than other soldiers in recent years, due in part to a decade of high operational tempo fueled by such non-combat deployments. The service once had armor brigades in Europe, but they were removed in the early 2010s.

Currently, the Army maintains a large presence of rotational forces in Europe. V Corps’ forward headquarters in Poznan, Poland oversees the three temporarily deployed brigade combat teams, which includes one light infantry brigade in addition to the two armor brigades. Other rotational forces include division headquarters, a combat aviation brigade, fires assets and sustainment units.

But the short-tour model has consequences, the report’s authors argued. They cost more money in the long-term compared to permanent bases, and they are less integrated into the continent’s culture and defense network. The deployment-based model negatively impacts soldiers, too — the authors said evidence suggests they “separate military personnel from their families,” causing “low morale” that can spawn “discipline issues and increased divorce rates.”

Army spokesperson Col. Roger Cabiness II told Army Times, however, that “forward basing of an ABCT is not a simple task.” Doing so would require diplomatic and legislative approvals both at home and abroad.

Despite efforts to reduce their operational tempo, the Army’s armor units continue to deploy at a high rate to fulfill the Europe requirements. The 4th Infantry Division’s 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team cased its colors Monday, signifying its departure for an eight- or nine-month Europe rotation. The Iron Brigade’s new mission is beginning roughly 16 months after returning to Fort Carson, Colorado from another Europe deployment that wrapped in December 2022.

The report’s authors also recommended that the Air Force station an additional F-16 squadron in Germany; increase anti-submarine warfare capability and air defense forces; bolster stockpiles of prepositioned equipment and ammunition; and continue modernization, cyber, space and security cooperation efforts.

Davis Winkie covers the Army for Military Times. He studied history at Vanderbilt and UNC-Chapel Hill, and served five years in the Army Guard. His investigations earned the Society of Professional Journalists' 2023 Sunshine Award and consecutive Military Reporters and Editors honors, among others. Davis was also a 2022 Livingston Awards finalist.

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