- The Washington Times - Monday, July 6, 2020

Soldiers assigned to a helicopter brigade in the famed 101st Airborne Division have begun arriving in Germany to begin a nine-month rotation there as part of an ongoing response to Russian activities in Ukraine, officials said.

When fully deployed, the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade consists of about 2,000 troops along with dozens of helicopters, trucks and equipment. The brigade, normally based in Fort Campbell, Ky., has gone through a “rigorous train-up,” including gunnery qualifications and several stateside training exercises, officials said.

The U.S. troops will be training alongside several NATO allies while in Germany, but not until they’re out of quarantine, officials said. To mitigate any spread of the coronavirus, the brigade will spend two weeks isolated in small groups at a military compound in Grafenwoehr, Germany, officials said.

“We wanted to make sure, for our host nation partners, that we do not bring any infections into the area,” said Army Lt. Col. Benjamin Ingram, a military physician assigned to the 7th Army Training Command.

The European Union is reportedly compiling a list of countries hit hard by the coronavirus whose travelers won’t be allowed into the region. Analysts said the U.S. would likely be on that list because of the recent rise in coronavirus cases.

Any U.S. soldier taking part in the training will be tested for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and undergo a two-week quarantine period, Dr. Ingram said.

The soldiers are being separated into the small groups according to the date of their arrival so the remaining soldiers wouldn’t be affected if a group tests positive for the virus, officials said.

“The first and foremost important thing is [ensuring] health force protections,” Dr. Ingram said. “If we find out that someone is a carrier of COVID-19, we can identify them early and anyone else they may have affected.”

The soldiers won’t be goofing off during their two-week isolation period. They will be completing lower-level, individual training, officials said.

Training “didn’t stop back in Fort Campbell and it won’t stop now. We are still mission-focused,” said Army Maj. Jay Berger, executive officer of the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade.

Col. Travis Habhab, commander of the brigade, credited the hard work by his troops for how well things have gone so far.

“Our soldiers have started off at a great pace. I am confident that their hard work will continue throughout the next nine months and they’re going to make everyone in the 101st proud.”

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