The 21st Theater Sustainment Command received more than 2,400 armored vehicles and equipment items into the European theater during simultaneous port operations in Alexandroupoli and Thessaloniki, Greece, and Gdynia, Poland, to support an Atlantic Resolve rotational deployment in November. Even as 21st TSC staged the equipment for rapid onward movement across the European continent, Area Support Group Balkans, 21st TSC, 409th Contracting Support Brigade and the U.S. Consulate General, Thessaloniki partnered with the Thessaloniki Chamber of Commerce and Industry to welcome Greek-owned businesses’ support of U.S. military missions, and ensure they had access to associated economic opportunities.
More than 100 area vendors attended the November 28 Thessaloniki vendor outreach fair to learn about the U.S. Army procurement process. Fair presenter Maj. Luis Palma, Balkans Regional Contracting Office Chief, 409th CSB, said the workshop aimed to give local businesses a pathway into U.S. contracting systems.
“The Greek population directly benefits as each company eligible to compete on U.S. Army contract actions will provide the population of Greece a steady and reliable source of income as our posture grows or is sustained in support of Atlantic Resolve,” said Palma.
Data compiled by 266th Finance Support Center indicates the U.S. awarded $2 billion to Greek vendors since the first Atlantic Resolve rotation in 2014, and economic opportunities are expected to increase.
Isaac Hansen-Joseph, economic officer, U.S. Consulate General, Thessaloniki, said the workshop reflects the importance the U.S. government places on the growth and success in the region’s economy. “A stronger economy for northern Greece is good for Greece, it’s good for Europe and it’s good for the transatlantic community,” said Hansen-Joseph. “Partnering together for economic prosperity is part of our shared story based on shared ideals including a dedication to democracy and free enterprise.”
Hellenic Army Col. Vasilios Yaglis said previous workshops have benefitted local communities and the military operations they’ve hosted. “We’ve been doing this at Alexandroupoli for years now,” said Yaglis. “This meeting was helpful for [Thessaloniki businesses] because they received all the guidance they need to get registered and examine the platforms the U.S. government uses. This is always good, to get local business involved with the military operation. We have the approval of the community because they gain something. It’s a win-win situation.”
ASG Balkans Commander Col. Matthew DiNenna said planned increased transit of U.S. armed forces materials and personnel through Greece means more business opportunities for the local economy. Creating a robust roster of local vendors helps the U.S. Army deliver higher quality products and services at lower costs.
He used logistic support areas, where Soldiers live during temporary duty assignments, as an example. While the Hellenic army has always made space available to U.S. troops when needed, historically the U.S. Army would set up tents for 30 to 40 days, only to be break them down and contract for them to be put back up months later.
To improve temporary living facilities and cost efficiency, ASG Balkans and 409th CSB are looking to establish those types of contracts for much longer duration. DiNenna said the vendor fair was the latest step in that direction.
“With Soldiers rotating there every other month, let’s put up more permanent structures and improve the [Soldiers’] quality of life,” said DiNenna. “As opposed to putting a tent up for 40 days, we’re looking at pre-fabricated modular type structures. For what they charge to put up tents for Soldiers to sleep in cots, I can probably get a better product at a reduced cost and improve the quality of life. My end-state is getting soldiers off the cots.”
DiNenna added they are also working on plans for morale, welfare and recreation facilities at the LSAs which are routinely stood up near the ports of Thessaloniki and Alexandroupoli as troops from the 16th Sustainment Brigade and incoming units conduct reception, staging and onward movement activities to support the deployment of ready, combat-credible U.S. forces to Europe.
“The continued increase of U.S. and NATO presence at Alexandroupoli has leveraged positive impacts to the community, bolstering the economy to include jobs,” said Andre Cameron, Director, Transportation Corps Detachment, Eastern Mediterranean-Greece, Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command. “U.S. military operations have supported the continued growth of the city to become a critical strategic node for transport and military logistics.”
While simultaneous port operations in Thessaloniki and Alexandroupoli in November demonstrated a high level of interoperability between the U.S. and Greece, the vendor outreach fair in Thessaloniki signified a commitment to continue to strengthen the relationship through military, diplomatic and economic joint ventures, according to fair coordinators.