Fort Carson troops are the tip of the spear of American forces partnering with our European allies. The Third Armored Brigade of the Fourth Infantry Division from Fort Carson has trained since January with NATO troops in ten different countries in Eastern Europe.
I have the privilege of leading a Congressional delegation this week to Poland and the Baltic countries where most of the exercises are being held. These NATO countries, including Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, are some of the most pro-American countries in the world.
The local sentiment is summed up by Colonel John Simmering, commander of the brigade. "They love having us here. They never want us to leave."
The exercises, called Atlantic Resolve, will help coordinate both the training and the combat operations of the U.S. and its NATO allies.
It is not easy for different countries to mesh their defenses. Fighting together will be necessary if Russia ever carries through on an invasion of NATO allies. It will require secure communications, coordinated targeting, and having a common operating picture.
Training together is vital for exposing roadblocks that prevent inter-operability. The fact that railroad tracks in Europe are three inches narrower than the old Soviet standard means that one cannot just haul armored vehicles and tanks from Poland into neighboring Lithuania. Lithuanian railroad tracks are on the Soviet standard so everything from a train coming in from Poland has to be offloaded and then reloaded.
Similar problems crop up with getting oversized vehicles like tanks under low bridges and while crossing small bridges.
All of this highlights the need for freedom of movement of men, equipment, and armor.
The goal of the exercises, according to one lieutenant colonel, is ultimately to demonstrate to the Russians, who are watching closely, that we have the ability to destroy the targets of our choosing better than they can.
This is a change in mission from assurance of allies to today's deterrence of adversaries.
The tempo of training for the Third Armored Brigade is several times that of normal operations back in Colorado. This tempo takes a heavier toll on the equipment, but the end result is an enhanced state of readiness. Having to change out a tank engine in the mud and cold of a Polish winter day on the banks of a remote river has a way of replicating actual combat conditions.
Returning home to Colorado is something the soldiers dream about constantly. When asked what he missed the most, Jay Burns, a major from East Tennessee, said, "I miss my wife the most. The mountains are second."
Eric Espinosa of Fountain, who has now seen something of the world, summed it up well. "It doesn't matter where you go. Colorado has the best sunsets."
From Estonia on the Baltic Sea in the north, to Georgia on the Black Sea, Fort Carson troops are carrying the flag to make a dangerous world safer.
This is the first in a series of articles from Congressman Doug Lamborn's visit with Fort Carson troops currently serving in Eastern Europe.