Senior Army leader visits air defense Soldiers in Kaiserslautern

Story and photo by Rick Scavetta
U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern

Air defense Soldiers at Rhine Ordnance Barracks had the opportunity to show their latest hardware to Secretary of the Army John McHugh during his visit Tuesday to U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern.

Soldiers from the 357th Air & Missile Defense Detachment welcomed the U.S. Army’s top civilian leader to their headquarters and offered him an up-close look at their patriot missile batteries.

As McHugh spoke with unit leaders, Soldiers from Battery A, 5th Battalion, 7th Air Defense Artillery Regiment drove in their heavy equipment and set up missile launchers, a radar unit, an electric power plant, antenna masts and a command post. Within 15 minutes, the battery was operational.

“I’m very impressed with the sheer quickness the Soldiers displayed putting this together,” McHugh said.

In July, Battery A returned from training in Poland, an ongoing U.S. European Command security cooperation mission. They jumped at the chance to test their setup skills for McHugh, said Capt. Alissa Clark, the battery commander.

 “It’s a great opportunity for our Soldiers to interact with senior leaders,” Clark said. “This is the best battery in the battalion and we want to put the best forward.”

McHugh visited to see firsthand the U.S. Soldiers support NATO mission and work with coalition partners. The Army air defenders in Kaiserslautern continue to support ongoing partnerships in Poland. The unit will also be part of NATO’s future missile defense system in Europe.

Staff Sgt. Rusty Bailey, who serves as Battery A’s master gunner, had the chance to brief McHugh on how Patriot batteries are set up.

“It was definitely a great opportunity to flex my knowledge to a senior civilian leader,” Bailey said. “But mostly, it was a great day for the Soldiers to come out and be recognized for the hard work they do.”

The visit was McHugh’s second stop within U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern.
Earlier, Maj. Gen. James C. Boozer Sr., U.S. Army Europe’s deputy commanding general and chief of staff, greeted McHugh and went with the secretary to lunch at the Ramstein Officers’ Club with Soldiers from the 19th Battlefield Coordination Detachment, who are stationed at the air base.

Over lunch, Soldiers had an opportunity to ask McHugh about topics ranging from their concerns about what the future holds for the Army to the outstanding support the unit receives from their Air Force partners at Ramstein, said Col. Steve Maranian, the 19th BCD commander.

Afterward, Maranian and his staff offered McHugh a brief on the unit’s current missions, providing a critical link between air and ground operations.

“Every opportunity we have to tell the Army leadership about the phenomenal cooperation between the Army and Air Force that happens here at Ramstein is a victory for joint interoperability,” Maranian said.

After departing Kaiserslautern, McHugh went to USAREUR headquarters in Heidelberg, where he met with senior Army and NATO officers and enjoyed a musical selection from the USAREUR chorus.

While visiting Soldiers in Hohenfels, McHugh watched partnership training with Georgian military forces.

His visit to Europe also included visiting U.S. Soldiers taking part in Rapid Trident in the Ukraine.