Operation Dragoon Ride, the longest U.S. Army movement in Europe since Gen. George S. Patton, is set to conclude later this week. The idea is to use a show of force and rapid mobility to let Russian President Vladimir Putin know that the United States can mobilize quickly, if need be, to protect allies.
The movement, which came into fruition over a period of several months, also serves as good training, according to Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commander of the United States Army forces in Europe.
For Hodges, while endless military training exercises have shown how rapidly Russian forces can move across terrain, American forces can move just as quickly, The New York Times reports. Operation Dragoon Ride launched just as Atlantic Resolve, a three-month deployment of American troops, was beginning to wind down. But instead of flying back to base in Germany from the Baltics and shipping equipment by rail, Hodges decided that 120 armed vehicles, along with 500 troops, would make the journey back by parading through six countries and driving a total distance of 1,100 miles.
It’s certainly a logistical test for 3rd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment troops. Mechanics are working feverishly to make sure that U.S. Army Stryker fighting vehicles are in tip-top shape.
In the Czech Republic, reception to Operation Dragoon Ride was frosty, as the Czechs remain divided on whom they favor more: Russia or NATO.
“”We’ve been considering blocking the roads but eventually decided to stage a protest in Prague outside the base where the U.S. soldiers will be staying,” said Jiri Vyvadil, an outspoken advocate in favor of Russia, according to The New York Times. “I will come with a banner that says ‘Czechs against NATO.'”
But during the trek, Czech wasn’t the norm. Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians have all welcomed the presence of U.S. troops. These countries notably consider themselves to be more at risk of Russian aggression. The same is true in Poland.
The force has made many stops along the way to reassure locals that a strong American presence is nearby.
The last time the U.S. Army has run a movement this long was in 1944, when Patton decided to move the Third Army over to help the American defense at Bastogne, Belgium, ultimately succeeding in pushing the Germans across the Rhine.
NATO allies have been continuously conducting training exercises in Poland the Baltics since Russia invaded Crimea in 2014. Operation Dragoon Ride is just the next stage.