The first port operation of DEFENDER 23 kicked off at Rota, Spain, on April 6, in a joint effort to build and maintain expeditionary forces in Europe. Aviation equipment from 5th Battalion, 159th Regiment General Support Aviation Battalion, an Army Reserve unit out of Fort Eustis, Virginia, was transported into Naval Station Rota in Southwest Spain, Fleet & Industrial Supply Center Sigonella-Rota.
DE23 is a U.S. Army Europe and Africa-led exercise focused on the strategic deployment of continental United States-based forces, employment of Army Prepositioned Stocks, and interoperability with Allies and partners. DE23 is comprised of three separate, but related, exercises to achieve common strategic objectives: Swift Response 23, Immediate Response 23 and Saber Guardian 23.
U.S. Navy Lt. J.G. Will Clark, logistics support officer with Naval Supply Systems Command Fleet Logistics Center-Rota, said the Rota Navy team has been in close coordination with the 5-159th GSAB to help load and transport the equipment to support SR23, which is set in a multi-domain operational environment to enhance joint interoperability.
The equipment included CH-47 helicopters, Blackhawk helicopters and supporting equipment including fuel and ground maintenance needed to maintain the aircraft for this portion of DE23. The port was filled with trucks and forklifts unloading more than 50 pieces of equipment off the vessel and transporting them to a warehouse to be stored.
Normally Clark’s team works with other Navy vessels to provide food, maintenance, and other logistical needs to enable combat capabilities for fleet, ashore and expeditionary forces. This was the first joint port operation for Clark and his team of Sailors charged with moving Army equipment.
“This gives us a chance to understand the Army standpoint, how they operate,” said Clark. “It’s completely different because we’re dealing with aviation equipment, we’re dealing with the Army. This just shows how we can come together and support one another. It gets everyone to be a part of the mission.”
U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jordan Frizzell, aviation maintenance officer for the 5-159th GSAB, said this is the first port operation the unit has conducted since 2008.
“It’s not something we normally partake in,” said Frizzell. “This is the first year a lot of our mechanics and sustainment individuals have actually been self-sufficient overseas without having a robust parts and maintenance package to fall in on. We’re bringing everything we need in an austere environment for a period of time, and relocating all of that equipment, parts and personnel back stateside once the mission is complete. This is a first for most of the people here.”
This movement of equipment from the continental U.S. involved extensive support from host nation Spain, demonstrating the importance of ally and partner investment in European military readiness and defense.
“The Navy here in Spain has been absolutely great to work with. They provided the personnel to help us move the aircraft, maintain the aircraft and provide security,” said Frizzell. “Everything we need on the airfield, everything needed to execute safely, the Navy has given us. We’re very thankful for their help.”
After the equipment goes through maintenance test flights, it will be moved by the 16th Sustainment Brigade, 21st TSC to the Spain exercise location during reception, staging and onward movement in conjunction with U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Spanish military assets for SR23. This operation is one of many during DE23 designed to build readiness within the alliance and deter potential adversaries.
When all is said and done, Clark was very proud of his team for assisting in the operation, as it gave them new tools for their toolbox.
“They are the ones putting in the time and the work. They deserve all the credit,” said Clark. “They give me a sense of accomplishment for what they’ve done for me, and the fleet as well.”