JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Members of the U.S. Armed Forces and National Guard are loading military equipment onto the U.S. Naval Ship Bob Hope at JaxPort’s Blount Island Marine Terminal for a large-scale, multinational military operation called Defender-Europe 21.
JaxPort is one of 17 strategic military ports in the country and the only port in Florida.
“Readiness is number one,” said Lieutenant Colonel Altwan Whitfield. “It’s a lot of people to make this happen.”
More than 750 pieces of equipment will be moved out during the operation.
“The most challenging part of the deployment operation is ensuring the synchronization of all the elements. We’re responsible for ensuring all the equipment for the units deploying is received properly, documented properly and loaded onto the vessel,” explained Whitfield. “Under COVID conditions it looks a lot different.”
First Lieutenant Christopher Long is with the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
“Very grateful to live in such a positive city,” Long said. “It’s very exciting to see all the operations we can hold right here in our backdoors.”
From Jacksonville, the U.S. Naval Ship Bob Hope will go to Virginia, before heading across the Atlantic.
“We’re going to five different countries, so we’re all flowing out of here as one. It’s easy to track the equipment when it is here. Once it gets loaded on the boat, it is going to different ports where it will break down across the way,” explained Long.
More than 30,000 forces from 27 nations will conduct synchronized operations across dozens of countries throughout the next few months.
U.S. soldiers will conduct pre-deployment COVID-19 testing, quarantine in Europe upon arrival and conduct another COVID-19 test before travelling throughout Europe.