United States Army, Active Duty 1984-1985

My time in the Army... and Reforger 85 "In this blog I am going to tell about some of my adventures during my two years active duty in the Army. Gun Blog    |    My Army Days    |    1984-1985
firing range Hammelburg Germany
firing range
Hammelburg, Ger.
REFORGER '85 and Operation Central Guardian

The Return of Forces to Germany (REFORGER) 1985, codenamed Operation Central Guardian, was a significant military exercise conducted during the Cold War era. This report will delve into the background of REFORGER exercises, the specific objectives and execution of Operation Central Guardian, the geopolitical context, its significance, and the implications it had during the Cold War period.

The Diary of a Soldier 09 February 1985
Background of REFORGER Exercises

Greg | 25 January 2024

REFORGER, an acronym for "Return of Forces to Germany," was a series of annual military exercises initiated by NATO in 1969. The primary purpose of these exercises was to ensure that NATO had the capability to rapidly deploy forces to West Germany in the event of a potential conflict with the Warsaw Pact, led by the Soviet Union. This series of exercises was a response to the growing tensions in Europe during the Cold War and the need for rapid reinforcement of European NATO members from U.S. bases.

train station in hammelburg
Operation Central Guardian: Objectives and Execution

Operation Central Guardian, conducted in 1985, was one of the most significant REFORGER exercises. The main objectives of this operation were:

  • Rapid Deployment: To demonstrate the ability of U.S. forces to quickly mobilize and deploy to Europe.
  • Interoperability: To test the interoperability of U.S. forces with NATO allies.
  • Logistical Support: To evaluate the logistical support required for such a large-scale deployment.
  • Deterrence: To serve as a deterrent to the Soviet Union by showcasing NATO's readiness.

The operation involved a massive movement of troops and equipment from the United States to Germany. Thousands of soldiers, along with tanks, artillery, and support vehicles, were transported across the Atlantic. The exercise also featured advanced military technology of the time, including new communication systems and modernized weaponry.

Geopolitical Context

Operation Central Guardian occurred at a critical juncture in the Cold War. In the early 1980s, tensions between NATO and the Warsaw Pact were high. The Soviet Union had invaded Afghanistan in 1979, leading to international condemnation and heightened fears of Soviet expansionism. Moreover, the deployment of new intermediate-range nuclear forces in Europe by both NATO and the Soviet Union had escalated the arms race. REFORGER 1985, therefore, played a crucial role in demonstrating NATO's commitment to defending Western Europe.

Significance of Operation Central Guardian
  • Military Readiness: The operation was a testament to the U.S. and NATO's ability to rapidly deploy a large number of forces. This was crucial for the defense strategy of forward deployment in Europe.
  • Technological Advancement: The exercise showcased the technological advancements in military hardware and communication systems, highlighting the modernization of NATO forces.
  • Political Messaging: It sent a strong political message to the Soviet Union about the unity and strength of NATO allies. It reinforced the U.S. commitment to the defense of Western Europe.
  • Training and Preparedness: For the troops involved, the exercise provided invaluable training and preparedness for potential real-world scenarios.
Implications During the Cold War

Operation Central Guardian had several implications during the Cold War:

  • Deterrence: The operation served as a deterrent against potential aggression by the Warsaw Pact, particularly in the context of heightened tensions in the 1980s.
  • NATO Solidarity: It reinforced the solidarity and cooperation among NATO members, essential for maintaining the alliance's strength and cohesion.
  • East-West Relations: While it showcased NATO's military prowess, such exercises also contributed to the arms race and the perpetuation of mutual suspicion between East and West.
  • Public Perception: In Western countries, the exercise was generally seen as a necessary measure for defense and deterrence. However, it also sparked public debate about the risks of escalation and the need for arms control.

REFORGER 1985, Operation Central Guardian, was a pivotal event in the Cold War narrative. It demonstrated the capability and readiness of NATO forces, particularly those of the United States, to defend Western Europe against any potential Soviet aggression. The operation was not just a military exercise but also a powerful political statement of deterrence, solidarity, and commitment to the defense of democratic values during a period marked by intense geopolitical rivalry.

This operation, like others in the REFORGER series, played a crucial role in maintaining the balance of power in Europe during the Cold War. It highlighted the importance of rapid deployment, interoperability, and logistical support in modern military strategy. The lessons learned and the demonstration of strength during Operation Central Guardian had lasting effects on NATO's military strategy and contributed to shaping the course of the Cold War in the following years.