On April 22, 2014, Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby gave a press briefing where he discussed the deployment of the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Europe:
“Secretary Hagel will be mindful, though, of events in Ukraine. Russia’s aggression in Ukraine has renewed our resolve to strengthening NATO’s defense plans and capabilities, and to demonstrate our continued commitment to collective defense in reinforcing our NATO allies in Central and Eastern Europe.
I can announce today that a company sized contingent of paratroopers from the U.S. Army Europe’s 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Airborne, which is based in Vicenza, Italy, will arrive in Poland tomorrow to begin exercises with Polish troops.
This new exercise is a first — is the first in a series of expanded U.S. land force training activities in Poland and the Baltic region that are scheduled to take place for the next few months and beyond. Additional companies from the 173rd will move in the coming days to Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia for similar exercises.
And with that, I’ll take your questions.
Q: Do you have any more specifics on the size, you said company size, but that can vary. Do you — do you have any specific numbers? And then you say beyond, so what’s beyond, what’s the timeline? Indefinite?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yeah, what we’re after here — good questions. First of all, when I say “company size,” that’s about 150. But it will, as you rightly pointed out, Justin, it could vary based on the exercise itself. But it’s about 150 soldiers. And what we’re after here is a persistent presence, a persistent rotational presence in these exercises.
So, we’re going to start, the troops will be in place in all four countries, probably by the end of this weekend, maybe Monday. As we — as we get into all four countries, the exercises will last about a month or so. But then we will rotate fresh troops in for more exercises.
How far this will go? I can’t give you a specific, you know, deadline or timeline on it, but we’re looking at trying to keep this — this rotational presence persistent throughout the rest of this year. But beyond that, it could go beyond the end of this year. We just don’t know. We’re just going to have to see how it goes.
Q: Are you saying about 600 personnel in total? Because if it’s a company size for each country, is that what you’re talking about?
And if you could just explain this persistent —
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Roughly 600.
Q: — you explain this persistent kind of a rotating presence, is it going to expand to other countries beyond the four that you’re just talking about right now?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: It very well could. And we’re in discussions with — with our NATO allies and partners right now. It every well could, but right now it’s going to start with those four countries.
Q: Was this — were these operations’ planning or whatever accelerated because of the Ukraine situation?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I think, look, we’ve been, since Russia’s aggression in — in Ukraine, we have been constantly looking at ways to reassure our allies and partners. And these exercises, they’re — two points. One, they’re bilateral. They’re between the United States and the country in question. And it’s not — it’s not necessarily — it’s not a NATO exercise.
And number two, it’s in response to that need, by Secretary Hagel reaching out and talking to General Breedlove, talking to General Dempsey, and looking for ways that we can constantly reassure our allies and partners of our commitment to article 5, to the alliance, but also to them and to their security. So it’s all part of that.
Q: So this planning is, in fact, connected to the Ukraine crisis?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: These particular exercises were additive. Now — now, I will say that these are countries that we routinely operate with. These are our units that the 173rd have worked with before in all four countries.
So they know each other. This isn’t the first time that the 173rd has done exercises with these countries. So there’s a relationship there. But, yes. These exercises were conceived and added on to the — added on to the exercise regimen as a result of what’s going on in Ukraine.”
Source: source: DOD http://www.defense.gov/Transcripts/Transcript.aspx?TranscriptID=5417 ).
The 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team (“Sky Soldiers”) is an airborne infantry brigade combat team of the United States Army based in Vicenza, Italy. It is the United States European Command’s conventional airborne strategic response force for Europe.