Defender 2020 exercise modified due to coronavirus

By Ashley Tressel / March 16, 2020 at 11:35 AM

U.S. European Command and the Army are adjusting the large-scale, joint exercise planned for April and May in Europe in response to guidance issued on the COVID-19 global pandemic.

The organizations issued press releases today on further adjustments to the exercise after an initial announcement last week that they would reduce the number of U.S. participants.

Defender 2020 was originally expected to include 18 participating countries with activities planned in 10 countries, including about 37,000 U.S., allied, and partner nation service members. Roughly 20,000 of those would have been deployed from the U.S.

"As of March 13, all movement of personnel and equipment from the United States to Europe has ceased," the Army said today. "The health, safety and readiness of our military, civilians and family members is our primary concern."

The Army since January has deployed about 6,000 soldiers to Europe, including a division headquarters and an armored brigade combat team, moved about 9,000 vehicles and pieces of equipment from prepositioned stocks and about 3,000 pieces of equipment by sea, according to the Army. Soldiers and equipment have moved from multiple ports to training areas in Germany and Poland.

Several "linked exercises" -- Dynamic Front, Joint Warfighting Assessment, Saber Strike and Swift Response -- have been canceled altogether.

"The purpose of Defender-Europe 20 is to build strategic readiness by deploying a combat credible force to Europe in support of NATO and the U.S. National Defense Strategy," the Army said.