With the beginning of exercise DEFENDER-Europe 21, the United States and 26 partner nations demonstrated their mobilization and logistics capabilities through sealift during the last week of April and first week of May 2021. The U.S. Navy’s most prominent contribution, the USNS Bob Hope (T-AKR 300), a purpose-built surge sealift large medium speed roll-on, roll-off ship (LMSR), sailed out of the Pacific northwest before loading in the Port of Jacksonville, Fla., and Portsmouth, Va., on its way across the Atlantic to the Adriatic Sea in Durres, Albania. Bob Hope’s cargo included over 700 pieces of Army light infantry brigade equipment including Humvees, trucks, and light artillery.
Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby explained the purpose of DEFENDER-Europe 21 during a May 3 press conference,“(DEFENDER-Europe 21) is defensive in nature, focused on deterring aggression, while preparing our forces to respond to crisis and conduct large-scale combat operations if necessary while helping us build interoperability.”
At the DEFENDER-Europe 21 Opening Ceremony and Distinguished Visitors Day in Durres on May 4, Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, head of U.S. European Command and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, stated, “NATO’s hope is this: that after today’s demonstration and after this exercise, each and every one of us are a little bit more responsive, a little bit more resilient, and a little bit more lethal, and I’m convinced that we will accomplish this task.”
Military sealift, as conducted by the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command (MSC), controls the replenishment of warships and transport of military cargo overseas. Without this logistical support, the military would not have the supplies needed to conduct virtually any mission taking place across the globe. One of the fundamental types of sealift operations is Joint Logistics Over-The-Shore (JLOTS) which allows sealift ships to discharge through inadequate or damaged ports, or through bare beaches, as demonstrated in part during the opening of DEFENDER-Europe 21. JLOTS is an operation that requires tedious logistical coordination, not just within the Navy, but across services, and as seen in DEFENDER-Europe 21, across multiple nations’ militaries.