In an echo of the Cold War, a U.S. Army air defense artillery unit is once again deployed to Europe.
Soldiers from the 678th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, South Carolina National Guard, officially uncased their unit’s flag and colors in a ceremony at the U.S. Army garrison based in Ansbach, Germany, on March 27.
The brigade’s commander, Col. Richard Wholey, said the deployment marked the first time an American air defense artillery brigade had deployed to Europe since the end of the Cold War.
The US Army has wrapped up a review of possible short-range air defense weapons from around the world and is working to fill a critical gap in Europe.
"Today is a historic day for U.S. Army Europe, the [10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command], [U.S. Army Garrison] Ansbach and the local Ansbach community," Wholey said during the ceremony. "Here we are in Ansbach uncasing the 678th Air Defense Artillery Brigade colors — the first uncased since the Cold War drawdown in Europe.”
The 678th ADA works to command and coordinate the operations of subordinate air defense artillery battalions.
In addition to the unit being the first ADA to return to the European theater since the end of the Cold War, it is the only integrated fires brigade in the Army’s inventory, according to an Army press release.
The unit will provide pivotal short-range air defense (SHORAD) coordination for U.S. forces in Europe, a capability found lacking when compared to the Russian military’s assets on display in the Ukraine conflict.
“Back in the 1990s, decisions were made to downsize and there was not much of a need for SHORAD,” said Col. David Shank, commander of the 10th AAMDC. “It all started in 2004 when the first SHORAD battalion was inactivated and it snowballed from there.”
“Fast forward to today and what does that mean? We have Stinger teams, Avenger batteries ... and why we are here today, the 678th Air Defense Artillery Brigade,” Shank added.
The ceremony marked the beginning of the 678th ADA's nine-month forward deployment in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve.
The brigade will be tasked with coordinating air defense missions in Europe as part of the operation.
Atlantic Resolve is an ongoing effort by NATO allies to respond to Russian aggression in Ukraine that began in 2014, according to U.S. Army Europe.
Soldiers with the 678th will take part in joint and multinational exercises with allies across the continent.
Short-range air defense systems came out of the woodwork at the AUSA annual meeting in Washington last week as industry and the Army seek to fill an urgent capability gap in theater.
Since April 2014, multinational training and security cooperation missions have taken place in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary. The Army says these training missions are intended to “strengthen relationships and trust among allied armies, contribute to regional stability, and demonstrate U.S. commitment to NATO.”