The history of the U.S. Army's 21st Theater Sustainment Command (21st TSC) extends back for more than half a century. In 1951, U.S. Army Europe and Africa (USAREUR-AF) established a separate command to handle logistics functions in its Area of Operations (AOR) that lasted until 1974. Called U.S. Army Communications Zone Europe, or COMZEUR, this forerunner of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command set the stage for a more than 50 year history of premier logistics support to U.S. Army Europe and Africa that continues today.
1st Support Brigade (1st SB)
The actual lineage and honors of the 21st TSC began in 1965 with the activation of the 1st Support Brigade on June 23, 1965. The initial mission of the 1st Support Brigade was to provide a variety of support services within theater, primarily in the rear areas, that were not provided directly through the staff of USAREUR-AF, or Theater Army Support Command, Europe (TASCOM).
Essentially, the 1st SB was activated to pick up where other theater support units left off. Early in the brigade's history, USAREUR-AF conducted a significant restructuring, which resulted in the lack of a major subordinate logistical command; this placed a significant burden of support on the brigade, which ultimately became upgraded to a command. As a brigade it was not a major subordinate command. Its capabilities of providing support within its structure did not match that of the preceding organizations of COMZEUR and TASCOM. As a result, USAREUR-AF upgraded the unit to something that much more closely matched the structure of the TASCOM.
The brigade's first home was Taylor Barracks, Mannheim, Germany. In 1974, TASCOM merged with USAREUR-AF, and the missions of 1st SB were expanded to include base operations support for eight military communities as well as the management of regional area support. It was at this time that the brigade upgraded to a general officer command, and the headquarters moved to Panzer Kaserne, Kaiserslautern, Germany.
21st Support Command (21st SUPCOM)
As the 1st SB's mission set and capabilities continued to increase, USAREUR-AF eventually upgraded the unit to a two-star command and re-designated it as the 21st SUPCOM. This re-designation returned the unit to the status of a major subordinate command to USAREUR-AF, and it more accurately reflected the level of responsibility held by the organization.
Established in 1976, the mission of the 21st SUPCOM much more closely resembled that of the TASCOM than the mission of the 1st SB. However, at this time, the major Corps operating in theater had significant support commands within their own structure, and the 21st SUPCOM's role was more of a theater-wide facilitator than a direct support provider to combat units. In addition to having logistics capabilities the 21st SUPCOM re-assumed many of the functions that had moved to USAREUR-AF in the 1st SB restructuring just a few years earlier. The basic mission of providing support to theater forces, in conjunction with the Corps Support Commands, did not change.
21st Theater Army Area Command (21st TAACOM)
The term 'Theater Army Area Command' reflects the unit structure on which the 21st SUPCOM was already based. In fact, in manning documents, orders and other official documents, the unit name of 21st SUPCOM was often followed by 'TAACOM' in parenthesis.
The name change from 21st SUPCOM to 21st TAACOM primarily reflected what was already the unit's official designation. Though it was upgraded from a two-star to a three-star command, this was more a reflection of capacity than a significant mission change.
Established on October 18, 1988, the command initially had the same essential mission set that existed for decades: support theater operations and prepare for war with the Soviet east. However, near the end of the 21st TAACOM period, the mission changed and the Soviet east was no longer a threat. Support to major operations in neighboring theaters became a significant part of the unit's mission.
21st Theater Support Command (21st TSC)
The 21st TSC was established on October 18, 2000. After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the diminishment of threat from the Soviet east, the mission of the command changed drastically. The mission set was no longer to prepare for major conflict in theater; rather, it was to support numerous ongoing operations within theater and in neighboring theaters.
During this time, the 21st TSC was providing a significant amount of direct support to combat units in theater. The deactivation of the Army Corps Support Commands put the mission of direct support to combat units in the 21st TSC's hands. This change also reflected the fact that the unit now commanded deployable forces and was considered a forward deployed command.
Direct support to combat units and the command and control of deployable forces made the 21st TSC a very different command than its predecessors.
21st Theater Sustainment Command
The 21st Theater Support Command was re-named as the 21st Theater Sustainment Command on July 16, 2007. The current mission of the 21st TSC is much expanded from prior, to include broader functionality and support of operations outside of the European theater.
The 21st Theater Sustainment Command is U.S. Army Europe and Africa's lead organization for all sustainment activities including logistics support, transportation, combat sustainment, human resources, finance, contracting and other areas in the field of sustainment. The 21st TSC also serves as the responsible headquarters for USAREUR-AF's Military Police, Medical and Sustainment brigades, providing combat engineers and military police to partnership training and other operations in support of USAREUR-AF, U.S. Africa Command and U.S. Central Command. Headquartered in Kaiserslautern, Germany, with units throughout the USAREUR-AF Area of Operations, the 21st TSC is truly positioned to be USAREUR-AF's key enabler, where it is needed, when it is needed.