US Army Europe Commander seeks fast-pass policy for American troops in Europe

LTG Ben Hodges (DoD)

The outgoing US Army Europe commander is currently pushing for better ways for the US military to move freely through Europe, much in the way that European Union citizens can cross national borders without a passport.

Lieutenant General Ben Hodges is searching for ways that the muscle of NATO -namely, the US Army- can quickly react to crises around Europe with speed and efficiency, and less bureaucratic headaches.

Speaking from the US Army-led Saber Guardian exercise in Romania, Hodges explained the need for US troops to have a fastpass style of travel they previously enjoyed, similar to the European Union’s Schengen Zone.

“This exercise has helped us improve our speed of assembly, the movement of allied forces from all over Europe to the Black Sea region and highlighted that we still have challenges with freedom of movement,” he said. “More than anything we need a military Schengen zone, something that would allow a military convoy to move across Europe as fast as a migrant is able to move across Europe. Right now that is not the case.”

Riding in a UH-60 Black Hawk from Bezmer Air Base, Bulgaria, to Capu Midia, Romania, during Saber Guardian, Hodges was informed that his helicopter would have to make a pit stop out of the way at M.K. Air Base in Romania- in order to clear customs.

For those unfamiliar with the European Union, the Schengen zone in Europe is made up of 26 countries that allow Europeans to travel without a passport between the participating countries, essentially treating the territory as one single country for travel purposes.

Hodges ultimate goal would be the ability to move troops and armor from one end of Europe to another with very few, if any, stops.

According to the Army Times, Hodges thinks it can be implemented- he just isn’t sure how easy it would be.

“If the leadership of the countries, whether it’s of the European Union or the alliance, understand it, then it actually shouldn’t be that hard to start making immediate improvements,” Hodges said. “Poland has already done things internally. Lithuania and Latvia have done things internally. Others will be reluctant.”

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