U.S., NATO Patriots Deploy to Augment Turkish Air Defenses
With advance elements of two U.S. Patriot missile batteries already on the ground in Turkey, additional defenders are prepared to deploy tomorrow in support of NATO’s missile defense mission there.
Airmen from the 721st Aerial Port Squadron loaded equipment for U.S. Army Europe’s 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command and 44th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, and the 32nd AAMDC from Fort Bliss, Texas, aboard a C-5 aircraft today at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, officials at U.S. Army Europe and U.S. Air Forces in Europe confirmed.
The 10th AAMDC will provide command and control for two Patriot missile batteries from the 32nd AAMDC.
Meanwhile, roughly 400 U.S. personnel and equipment from the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Air Defense Artillery, based at Fort Sill, Okla., began flowing into Turkey late last week to man the equipment, U.S. European Command officials said. Additional equipment will arrive by sea later this month.
In Turkey, the U.S. forces will be joined by missile defenders from Germany and the Netherlands, the only other NATO nations with PAC-3 Patriot anti-missile systems, which are each contributing two batteries to the mission.
NATO foreign ministers agreed in late November to provide Turkey the air defense support it had requested. The request came after shells from Syria’s political unrest -– which a new United Nations report estimated this week has claimed 60,000 lives -- spilled into Turkey.
“NATO has decided to augment Turkey's air defense capabilities in order to defend the population and territory of Turkey and contribute to the de-escalation of the crisis along the alliance's border,” the ministers said in a statement released following the meeting.
“Turkey is an important NATO ally, and we welcome the opportunity to support the Turkish government’s request in accordance with the NATO standing defense plan,” said Navy Vice Adm. Charles Martoglio, Eucom’s deputy commander.
Martoglio said the Patriot batteries will fall under NATO command once the systems become operational within the next several weeks.
He emphasized that the deployment will be defensive only, and won’t support a no-fly zone or any offensive operation.
Army Lt. Col. Robert Ozanich, intelligence and security officer for the Kaiserslautern-based 10th AAMDC, said the command-and-control element his command is deploying will interact with the Turkish government and NATO forces to ensure they are providing the protections Turkey has requested.
With experience throughout the European theater under their belts -- including recent deployments to Poland and to Israel during the Austere Challenge 2012 exercise -- the deploying soldiers have the experience and hands-on time with their equipment to carry out the mission, Ozanich said. “One of the biggest pieces is making sure that our soldiers are ready,” he said.
Equally important, he said, they have had the opportunity to work side by side with partner militaries and to develop an awareness of cultural customs, courtesies and sensitivities.
“The people going forward look forward to doing the mission they have trained for,” Ozanich said. “Our expectations are that we will be able to successfully complete this mission and provide the necessary protections to Turkey.”
“It’s good to be in Turkey,” said Army Maj. Brian Carlin, who deployed to Turkey with the advance elements. “We believe the measure of deterrence that we can add makes our soldiers’ time away from friends and families back home worthwhile. Protecting our allies is what this alliance is all about.”
At this point, it’s unclear how long the deployment will last. That, officials said, will be determined by the contributing nations in coordination with Turkey and NATO.
Article by Donna Miles, American Forces Press Service