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    Allied Strength Across Waters: Wet Gap Crossing with NATO Forces

    Allied Strength Across Waters: Wet Gap Crossing with NATO Forces

    Photo By Capt. Michael Mastrangelo | The Warrior, a British armored vehicle, crosses the Drawa River on an Improved Ribbon...... read more read more

    As part of DEFENDER 24, the 43rd Multi-Role Bridge Company (MRBC), 20th Engineer Battalion, began training with the U.K.’s 12th Armoured Brigade Combat Team (ABCT), 3rd Division, in Drawsko Pomorskie, Poland, May 2, 2024, for a wet gap crossing on the Drawa River, Poland, May 16, 2024. The joint crossing and bridging operation demonstrated the Army’s proficiency in conducting complex maneuvers while emphasizing its ability to operate seamlessly in a joint environment with NATO Allies.

    A wet gap crossing involves overcoming natural obstacles such as rivers or bodies of water to advance troops and equipment swiftly and effectively over a water obstacle large enough to prevent normal ground maneuvers. Though high risk, wet gap crossings provide military commanders with options to maneuver around or through obstacles and possible defensive positions. The U.S. Army uses Bridge Erection Boats (BEBs) and Improved Ribbon Bridges (IRBs) to create a combination of flexible crossing options. The IRBs can be set in place to form a bridge from the near side of the water obstacle to the far side. Additionally, the BEB can be hooked to standalone bays of the IRB to function as a raft or ferry to move equipment and vehicles back and forth.

    “Utilizing the Improved Ribbon Bridge as a bridge and raft to move equipment provides a strategic advantage to cross water obstacles,” said Capt. Joel Self, the commander of the 43rd MRBC. “It gives us the flexibility to move combat power across any terrain.”

    The high concentration of waterways and water obstacles in the European region has led to the demand for wet gap crossings to be implemented in various NATO exercises, and these wet gap crossings have become a focus for joint operations between NATO allies. These crossings allow NATO to project combat power and provide the ability to maneuver across water obstacles without hindering the speed and tempo of operations.

    “The challenges we face in Europe, particularly in the Suwalki Gap, are significant,” said Lt. Col. Karl Davis, the battalion commander of the 20th Eng. Bn. “The strategic area represents a potential choke point that must be secured to ensure the freedom of movement for our NATO forces. Our mission was not just about overcoming physical obstacles; it was about building partnerships and cohesion among our NATO Allies.”

    The 43rd MRBC and the 12th ABCT participated in meticulous planning sessions and rehearsals before conducting the crossing, which allowed for precision and accuracy during the operation. The results of the crossing underscored the importance of synchronization and interoperability among NATO Allies. Collective security on NATO’s Eastern Flank relies heavily on regional partnerships and the ability to conduct these complex missions in the theater.

    The 43rd MRBC successfully employed 28 bays of IRBs to span the water obstacle. Simultaneously, they used BEBs to ferry armor from the 12th ABCT to the far side of the obstacle. Once the crossing was established, the 12th ABCT could maneuver armored vehicles to the far side of the river. The operation served as a demonstration of the NATO Allies’ ability to overcome obstacles in unfamiliar territory and the ability to conduct a complex operation as a team.

    Soldiers from both units worked hand in hand, exchanging knowledge, tactics, and best practices. This collaborative effort enhanced their skills and fostered a sense of camaraderie and mutual respect among the allied forces. Such partnerships are vital for strengthening international alliances and promoting stability in an ever-changing global landscape.

    Moreover, the exercise highlighted the importance of maintaining a robust and agile military force capable of responding rapidly to emerging threats and challenges. The European region provides physically challenging terrain requiring joint operations for navigation and maneuvering. Joint wet gap crossings give commanders the confidence to overcome obstacles and maneuver within the battle space.

    DEFENDER 24 is a potent demonstration of force projection capabilities, and injecting wet gap crossings between Allied Nations assures our steadfast commitment to overcoming any obstacles - terrain or other. Military proficiency and cooperation demonstrations will remain essential to transatlantic security and stability.

    “Working alongside a U.S. battle group has proven the long-established bonds of human and procedural interoperability are alive and well,” said Lt. Col. Edward Willcox, the commander of the Royal Welsh Battle Group, 12th ABCT. “The soldiers you will meet will reflect the scale of this exercise that has been created for them and a new level of ambition.”



    Date Taken: 05.17.2024
    Date Posted: 05.17.2024 10:43
    Story ID: 471548
    Location: PL

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