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DURRES, Albania (AP) – Albania’s main port, Durres, received a huge influx of containers and large trucks this week ahead of NATO exercises, a concentration of military vehicles which U.S. officials say has not been seen in the Adriatic nation since WWII. .
Some 700 pieces of equipment from the 53rd Infantry Brigade of the Florida National Guard were unloaded from USNS Bob Hope in Durres, 33 kilometers west of the capital, Tirana. They will be used for two weeks of training involving up to 6,000 US troops at six Albanian military bases.
It is part of the U.S. Army-led Defender-Europe 21 multinational military exercises aimed at deterring aggression and enhancing operational readiness with NATO and more allies and partners. They take place from May 17 to June 2.
“Albania is a valuable partner. Our armies benefit by training together, improving interoperability, strengthening operational readiness and strengthening relationships – all of this enables us to respond to any crisis, anytime, with our allies and partners ”, Tammy Muckenfuss of the US Army for Europe and Africa, based in Germany, said Saturday.
For Major Randall Moran, “bringing all these groups together is very unique.”
Divers were still checking the harbor’s 7-meter (23-foot) draft. But the two logistics support ships carrying the vehicles can operate in shallow water and worked tirelessly to bring in military equipment.
A British military ship will also arrive in the coming days.
Defender-Europe this year involved approximately 28,000 U.S. forces, allies and partners from 27 countries to conduct simultaneous operations in more than 30 training areas in more than a dozen countries, from the Baltic and African countries to the Black Sea and in the Balkans.
In addition to offering six naval, land and air bases, Albania, a NATO member since 2009, will commit 1,000 troops to what Defense Minister Niko Peleshi called “a historic event because it is about of the biggest exercise in Albania and the region ”.
US military officials praised Albania’s hospitality, good food and natural beauty.
Muckenfuss said: “Albania has been an incredible host and has given all of our soldiers a warm welcome.”
“It’s a great choice for exercise,” Moran said. “I think you go up more or less like a hidden gem. So that the people are great, the food is delicious and the views are beautiful. “
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