August 4, 2004
Since the end of the Cold War in 1991, the army and marines have been adjusting their prepositioned equipment (ships or warehouses full of equipment for a mechanized or marine brigade). The decades old prepositioned equipment program placed gear near potential hot spots, so that all you have to do in an emergency is fly in the troops and, within a few days, you have a combat brigade ready to fight. Throughout the Cold War, most of the prepositioned equipment was in Europe. Since the end of the Cold War, some was moved to the Persian Gulf and Korea. But one brigades worth was kept in Europe, and another was stored on ships off the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia. After the 2003 operation in Iraq, there are three brigade sets in the Persian Gulf, one afloat off Guam, one in Korea and one still in Europe.
But with all this reorganization in the last 13 years, it was nearly forgotten that the marines had a rather large brigade set (for a 13,000 man brigade) stored in six caves in Norway. This stuff has been there since the early 1980s, in order to assist in the defense of Norway if the Russians invaded. Such an invasion has been moot since 1991, but the brigade set in Norway continued to be maintained, and even updated with new equipment. Congress is pressuring the marines to get the stuff out of the Norwegian caves and put it somewhere more useful. The marines are working on it.
The army is also considering where to put there prepositioned stuff after the situation in Iraq has settled down. Some more of it will probably be moved to the Pacific. The army also has to reorganize the equipment in each brigade set to match the redesigned army combat brigades (sometimes called Units of Action.)
The prepositioned gear got a workout during the Iraqi operations, and the troops were very pleased with the reliability and readiness of the prepositioned gear. The equipment is maintained by civilians, under military supervision.