(USA Features) The Pentagon is preparing troops stationed in Europe for a “worst-case scenario” as the COVID-19 virus spreads throughout the continent, officials said Friday.
U.S. Army Gen. Tod D. Wolters, commander of U.S. European Command, told reporters that thus far, there have been about 35 reported cases among American military personnel stationed in Europe.
However, he added that as the virus spreads quickly across the region and with countries such as Italy, France, Spain and others facing dire situations, the outlook for U.S. forces could deteriorate very quickly.
“We are preparing for worst-case scenarios with respect to the potential spread,” he told reporters via telephone.
When asked about what that might mean, Wolters said the worst-case scenario would be if or when coronavirus compromises the U.S. mission to help defend Europe to the point he must “go outside the forces I currently command” for assistance.
That said, Wolters assured reporters that at present, U.S. forces in Europe are fully prepared and capable of carrying out any mission given them.
“As we currently sit, based off the trajectory of the virus spreading across Europe, we’re in a position … to be able to sustain the current readiness posture we have,” he said.
The Defense Department has already made adjustments in response to the virus’ spread. For instance, DoD scaled back the massive Defender Europe 20 military exercise, which was to have been the largest on the continent since the Cold War.
More than 20,000 American personnel were scheduled to take part in the exercise, though strict travel restrictions on troops have kept that number closer to 6,000.