Thousands of Soldiers Deployed to Europe amid Ukraine War Will Be Relieved by New Units

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Soldiers walk past a large American flag at Hunter Army Airfield in Georgia.
In this photo made with a slow shutter speed, soldiers with the U.S. Army's 87th Division Sustainment Support Battalion, 3rd Division Sustainment Brigade, walk past a large American flag during their deployment to Europe, Friday, March 11, 2022, at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Georgia. (Stephen B. Morton/AP Photo)

More than 10,000 service members sent to Europe amid the Ukraine war will be coming home as the Army sends new units to relieve them, the Pentagon announced Friday.

The full rotation of about 10,500 troops from countries such as Germany, Poland and Romania will likely take a couple of months, according to the Pentagon. About 8,400 of the soldiers now heading over to bolster the defenses of NATO ally countries will come from the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas, the Army said.

The 1st Armored Division Combat Aviation Brigade out of Fort Bliss, Texas, will also deploy and relieve other soldiers as part of a regular rotation that has existed to deter Russia since before its Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.

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"These deployments are one-for-one unit replacements, which will leave our overall force posture in the region -- approximately 100,000 -- unchanged," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said during a press briefing. "The units being replaced will return to their home station following an appropriate turnover of responsibilities."

The fresh deployments are a sign the Pentagon and President Joe Biden's administration have no immediate plans to ease off the response to Russian President Vladimir Putin's floundering invasion, which has outraged and united the alliance but shows no signs of ending. 

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered the moves, which come more than three months after the first deployment of additional troops due to the conflict.

An initial 3,000 soldiers with the 82nd Airborne Division and 18th Airborne Corps were sent to Europe on Feb. 2 as a show of strength among western nations -- weeks before Putin made the decision to invade Ukraine, a former Soviet republic on his country's border. 

After the invasion, more U.S. troops -- including an infantry battalion based in Italy, F-35 Lightning II fighter jets and Apache attack helicopters -- were shifted to eastern European countries such as Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, which form the border of the NATO alliance.

Biden has repeatedly said U.S. troops will not fight in Ukraine, and the forces in Europe have largely been a symbolic gesture and warning for Russia to stay out of NATO countries. About 160 members of the Florida National Guard have been training Ukrainians in Germany on how to use the flood of weapons and hardware, including artillery, radars and drones, that is coming from the U.S. and other countries.

Russia now appears bogged down in the eastern Donbas region after failing earlier in the war to take the capital Kyiv. Ukrainian forces are putting up strong resistance using U.S. M777 howitzers.

On Friday, Austin spoke with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu for the first time since February and urged Moscow to call a cease-fire in the war.

Here are the new rotations announced by the Army:

  • 4,200 soldiers with the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, will replace the 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division.
  • 4,200 soldiers with the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, will replace the 1st Armored Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division. 
  • 500 members of the 101st Airborne Division Headquarters will replace the 82nd Airborne Division Headquarters.
  • The 1st Armored Division Combat Aviation Brigade will replace the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade as part of the Atlantic Resolve rotational force.

-- Travis Tritten can be reached at travis.tritten@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @Travis_Tritten. 

Related: More Troops Headed to Eastern Europe as Biden Says Russia Invasion of Ukraine Has Started

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