The U.S. Army on Monday formally reactivated a two-star level command in Germany to direct all artillery operations in Europe, another response to rising tensions between the NATO alliance and an increasingly assertive Russia.
The 56th Artillery Command will coordinate long-range artillery for large-scale combat operations for army units in both Europe and Africa.
“It will further enable the synchronization of joint and multinational fires and effects and employment of future long-range surface to surface fires across the [U.S. Army Europe and U.S. Army Africa] area of responsibility,” Maj. Gen. Stephen Maranian, the new unit’s commander, said before the Monday announcement in Wiesbaden, Germany.
The 56th Artillery Command traces its lineage to a Cold War-era unit, the 56th Field Artillery Command, which served as the headquarters for Pershing missile operations in Europe. It was inactivated in June 1991 following the signing four years earlier of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty curbing the use of midrange “tactical” nuclear weapons.
Gen. Christopher Cavoli, the commander of U.S. Army Europe and Africa, called the decision to bring back the 56th Artillery Command, “extremely good news.”
“It was a critical capability that we were missing,” he said during Monday’s ceremony. “A field artillery headquarters for the entire theater was badly needed.”
The unit will be responsible for not only overseeing U.S. artillery missions in Europe but coordinating with other services and other nations of the NATO alliance.
While U.S. Army operations in Europe were slashed with the collapse of the Soviet Union, recent Russian actions including the annexation of Crimea and its support of separatist forces in Ukraine have prompted a renewed push toward rebuilding its presence. The Army’s V Corps, another Cold War-era unit that had been in Germany for decades, was recently reestablished and last week reached “fully operationally capable” status.
V Corps will operate a forward headquarters in Poznan, Poland, to direct future operations, officials said.