More 3rd ID soldiers deploy to Germany to support NATO allies

Published: Mar. 2, 2022 at 4:03 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 2, 2022 at 7:37 PM EST
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - A deployment underway, thousands of 3rd Infantry Division soldiers are flying out of Savannah, heading overseas for a mission the Army says is all about supporting allies and deterring Russia from attacking more countries.

Wednesday, WTOC got in-person access at Hunter Army Airfield to see the send-off of nearly 200 soldiers from the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team.

Soldiers in this particular brigade are no strangers to deployment, having just returned from an overseas mission in South Korea less than one year ago.

As they awaited the order to board a plane bound for Germany, some of the soldiers talked amongst themselves. Some sat quietly alone. All are prepared for their latest mission, which is to support NATO allies. It’s a mission their commanding officers say the soldiers are keyed in on, having seen all the news coverage, following the latest developments in Ukraine.

“What’s neat to watch is, they are paying attention. They are totally switched on to what is going on in Ukraine with Russia. Because they know it has potential to directly impact them,” said Major General Charles Costanza, 3rd ID.

Right now the expectation is for about a six-month deployment. But Major General Charles Costanza adds that could change depending on the need from NATO partners, and orders from the Secretary of Defense.

To help ease any anxiety for soldiers and their families, Major General Costanza says they’ve prioritized communication.

“Not just to the family, but to the soldier on what they’re going to do. We don’t have a 100-percent view of everything we’re doing. We know they’re going to Grafenwöehr, Germany. They’re going to train in Grafenwöehr, Germany for a period of time. And then again, potentially deploy to a NATO partner or ally to just train with them just to reassure the other partners we have in the region.”

One thing the commanding general for the 3rd ID said is, in his 30 year military career, that he’s never seen the Army order a contingency deployment of a heavy armor brigade on such short notice. And it’s the first time to his knowledge that this many armored brigade combat teams have been in Europe at once since the Army began forward stationing in Germany.

This particular brigade just got back from a nine month deployment in South Korea seven months ago, so it’s a quick turnaround, and one the major general we spoke with addressed as soldiers were deploying Wednesday afternoon.

“Because of the short notice deployment requirement, it’s as mixed reaction from the soldiers. So if you talk to the junior soldiers that have not deployed, I mean they are super excited and really motivated about going. For soldiers who have families who maybe just got back from Korea seven months ago, there’s a little bit of hardship there. I mean, again, they know they’re part of the United States Army and they’ll do whatever the Army asks them to do. We do exist for contingency kind of operations. But it is hard when you just got back,” said Major General Charles Constanza.

Major General Costanza says once the soldiers arrive in Germany, they begin training exercises with allied forces.

They’ll be joining two other armored brigade combat teams, something the 3rd ID commanding general says he doesn’t believe has happened in decades.

Even with some uncertainty ahead, soldiers we spoke with expressed confidence in their command

“Right now I think everyone’s pretty focused, focused on the objective at hand,” said 1st Lieutenant Adam Emurson.

...and in each other.

“We are a family. There’s a lot of strong bonds here between every single soldier. We’re all deploying in support of our nation, and we all have that shared goal and that shared trust. So together, we can overcome any obstacle,” said Captain Troy Makulec.

“They feel ready, and looking forward to whatever this has to offer for us,” said Staff Sergeant Voelker.

Overall, Fort Stewart is deploying around 3,800 of the 7,000 total U.S. soldiers who are going to Europe. For many soldiers WTOC spoke with Wednesday, this is their first deployment since joining the armed forces. For others, they say while they had to leave quickly, they feel more than prepared for the mission ahead.

“We always strive to be prepared at a moment’s notice. It’s kind of the nature of our job. When we actually got the orders we’re going, it was kind of an expedited process to get ready to go, but I feel collectively, we’ve all done this before, it’s nothing new, we just had to do it a little quicker this time,” said Lieutenant Nicholas Rawson, Platoon Leader.

Some 3rd ID soldiers have already arrived in parts of Germany.

These soldiers could be deployed for up to six months, as the details of the mission remain fluid.

“I’m nervous. I think a lot of us are nervous. But we’ve trained for this, we prepared for this, and I think we’re ready,” said Brodi Curry, Specialist who has served 18 months.

For one soldier, this trip overseas is personal. Platoon Sergeant Joshua Cooner’s wife is from Germany.

“Because of the conflict in Europe, obviously that affects her and her family more, because of the proximity,” he said.

For Sergeant First Class Krystal Allen, this deployment means reuniting with her husband, who is already deployed.

“He left out a couple of days ago, and it’s wonderful, because when it comes to talking to your significant other, it’s nice because he is there,” she said.

There are some nerves associated with this mission, but one platoon leader says this –

“It’s focusing on the task at hand. We call it 50-meter targets, those things that are upcoming and are close, that gives you clarity.”

While the deployment happened quickly, these soldiers say they’re ready for what’s ahead.

“This is what we train for, this is why a lot of us join the Army to actually do something to serve our country. For me at least, it’s a big deal,” said Platoon Leader Nicholas Rawson.

A big deal that many say wouldn’t be possible without their support system at home.

“I couldn’t ask for a better support system when it comes to our families. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do.”

Also supporting each other on this mission, knowing they’re stronger together.

Why Germany?

The question some of you may have is why Germany?

It all dates back to about four years after World War Two ended, when 30 countries, including the U.S. and Germany signed the Washington Treaty forming the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, better known as NATO.

NATO is a military alliance. When it was formed in the early days of the Cold War, members pledged to “safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilization of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law.”

We’re seeing those promises play out in a new way right now as the NATO response force is activated for the first time. That happened Friday.

While Ukraine isn’t a member of NATO, many of it’s neighbors are, and that is what President Biden says U.S. troops will defend if Russia makes a move towards them.

“We have mobilized American ground forces, air squadrons, ship deployments, to protect NATO countries including Poland, Romania, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. And as I’ve made crystal clear, the United States and our allies will defend every inch of territory that is NATO territory with the full force of our collective power, every single inch,” President Biden said.

The keystone of the NATO alliance is Article 5 of the treaty - which says an armed attack against one member nation is an attack on them all.

Two more factors worth pointing out - NATO stopped cooperation with Russia in 2014 after the country took over Crimea. And, like we mentioned, Ukraine isn’t a member, but it is a partner, and just like the U.S., other NATO members are sending support in the form of funding and equipment.

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