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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — The US Army is building up its engineer, communications and artillery equipment sets in Europe to meet the needs of commanders in the region.

The Army recently grew its European Activity Set into a brigade-sized set, complete with almost 90 Abrams tanks, said Gen. Dennis Via, commander of Army Materiel Command. The equipment is used by troops rotating into Europe for exercises and military-to-military engagements with NATO allies in the face of Russian aggression.

AMC is now focusing on building “additional sets and capabilities,” Via said during a meeting with reporters at the Association of the United States Army Global Force Symposium and Exposition here.

The growth comes as the military’s 2017 budget request calls for $3.4 billion for the European Reassurance Initiative. The request quadruples previous funding levels and signals a new recognition that the former Cold War foe is once again a major global rival.

The budget request also calls for the Army’s armored brigade combat teams to start back-to-back rotations in Europe in 2017. If approved, the move would 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.

After the drawdown, which shrank the Army’s presence in Europe from about 40,000 soldiers to 30,000, the service placed a battalion-sized equipment set in Europe.

“After Russia annexed Crimea, the decision was made to deploy a battalion from Fort Hood, Texas, and they fell in on this activity set and in the span of four days they were out training with Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Germany,” Via said. “It reduces response time, and it is equipment soldiers are familiar with.”

That battalion-sized equipment set has since grown into the brigade-sized set and is regularly being used by soldiers rotating in and out of Europe for multinational exercises and training, including Operation Atlantic Resolve, a series of exercises designed to reassure America’s allies and deter Russia.

Building up the force in Europe is a priority for the Army, but it is still also working to build equipment sets elsewhere around the world, Via said.

“The priority right now is Europe, but we have the flexibility to move to more than just one theater,” he said. “We’re still pushing equipment to the Pacific, Africa, we’re still supporting [Central Command] and Afghanistan and Iraq.”

When building these theater-specific sets, the Army is focused on tailoring them to the needs of the combatant commanders and the types of missions or exercises they’re conducting, Via said.

AMC also is focused on making sure the equipment in the sets are modern and well maintained, he said.

“It’s our best and most modern equipment,” he said. “It sends a signal to our allies but also to our potential adversaries.”

These equipment sets are different from the Army’s pre-positioned stocks, which are designed to be used in case of emergency or contingency.

The Army has stocks strategically located around the world, including two sets that are on ships.

“The pre-positioning of stocks is really a very important piece of the mobility triad,” said Maj. Gen. Kevin O’Connell, commanding general of Army Sustainment Command. “Pre-positioned stocks puts that equipment forward and gets rid of that tyranny of distance.”

For full coverage of the AUSA Global Force Symposium and Exposition visit www.defensenews.com/gfs.

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