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NEWS | April 1, 2020

Team provides combat support to Army Soldiers overseas

By Ms. Jacqueline Boucher

Team Tobyhanna united with allies and partners to realize readiness goals while the U.S. Army prepared for exercise DEFENDER-Europe 20.

Subject matter experts traveled to Army Prepositioned Stocks (APS-2) sites in Germany, Netherlands and Belgium to inspect, integrate and test installation kits for Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio Systems (SINCGARS) and Blue Force Tracking on hundreds of tactical wheeled vehicles.

An advance team was able to get an accurate picture of the communications systems health across the designated APS-2 sites, according to Equipment Specialist Keith Faas, integration lead for the project. Once mission requirements were established, a team of volunteers was assembled to do the job. Faas is assigned to the C4ISR Directorate’s COMSEC (Communications Security) Logistics Support Branch.

“I am proud of each team member that selflessly supported the Army Prepositioned Stocks missions in Europe,” said Ed Kraftchisin, COMSEC Logistics Support Branch chief. “Their professional excellence, versatility and initiative played a key role in preparations for the exercise.”

Tobyhanna Army Depot’s primary mission on foreign soil was to integrate the installation kits for SINCGARS. In addition, the team also provided over-the-shoulder training for Soldiers who would be using the equipment.

“The installation process consisted of several steps,” said Electronics Technician Steve Weidman. “Once complete, the team made sure the system was operational before being handed off to the Soldier.”

A prepositioned stock fact sheet describes the program as a cornerstone of the Army’s ability to rapidly project power and send a clear signal of U.S. commitment. Sets of equipment, such as all the tanks and wheeled vehicles of an armored brigade combat team, are strategically prepositioned in climate-controlled facilities worldwide. This reduces deployment response times by allowing Soldiers to fly to a theater and fall in directly on all the equipment they need to fight and win.

According to Weidman, installation kits were provided by U.S. Communications-Electronics Command and were on site when the five-member team arrived at each location. He remarked that the host nations were very supportive and easy to work with. Weidman is also assigned to the COMSEC Logistics Support Branch.

“Our involvement was to prep vehicles in the fleet, make sure everything worked as it should,” said Dennis Karchin, logistics management specialist, who oversees Tobyhanna’s support of the APS program. “The depot has a long history of supporting the APS program’s global mission.” Karchin works in the Production Management Directorate’s Secure Communications Project Management Branch.

Army Materiel Command (AMC) maintains oversight for the program and manages the necessary storage and maintenance of each equipment set.

“I see DEFENDER-Europe helping us illuminate and magnify the potential of APS,” Gen. Gus Perna, AMC commander, was quoted saying during an event in February. “We have gone to great lengths to ensure that a unit can get on a plane, fly over, and then draw that equipment rapidly. And that equipment is going to have all of the [necessary] capabilities so [Soldiers] can get to where they need to be.”

DEFENDER-Europe 20 was designed to build strategic readiness by deploying a combat credible force to Europe in support of NATO and the U.S. National Defense Strategy, according to a press release posted on the U.S. Army Europe website. The months-long event was advertised as the largest deployment of U.S.-based forces to Europe for an exercise in more than 25 years.

“I think the work went well. Everything was in place and everyone was very helpful,” said Thomas Littman, electronics mechanic in the C4ISR Directorate’s Air Traffic Control Systems Branch. “Members of the team are equally skilled at installing kits, so we were able to rotate responsibilities. As a team we work well together.”

To protect the health, safety and readiness of military, civilians and family members, the long-anticipated event was modified in size and scope in response to the current outbreak of the COVID-19 virus and recent guidance by the Secretary of Defense, according to the U.S. Army Europe press release. As of March 13, all movement of personnel and equipment from the U.S. to Europe has ceased.

Leaders noted strategic readiness goals were met although exercise DEFENDER-Europe 20 was revised. The effort employed the Army’s ability to coordinate large scale movements with allies and partners. Since January, the Army deployed approximately 6,000 Soldiers from the U.S. to Europe including a division headquarters and an armored brigade combat team. It has moved approximately 9,000 vehicles and pieces of equipment from Army Prepositioned Stocks and approximately 3,000 pieces of equipment via sea from the U.S. And, in coordination with allies and partners, it also completed movement of Soldiers and equipment from multiple ports to training areas in Germany and Poland.

“Our [Tobyhanna Army Depot] goal was to show the customer what we can do to support their mission. Show them we’re professional and skilled,” said Nikie Ortiz, electronics mechanic in the C4ISR Directorate’s Threat Systems Transmitter Branch. “This was a great opportunity to demonstrate depot capability.”