173rd paratroopers land in Lithuania
April 28, 2014
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SIAULIAI AIR BASE, Lithuania (April 28, 2014) -- Paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade arrived in here Saturday, to begin a training rotation with the Lithuanian army's "Iron Wolf" Mechanized Infantry Brigade.
Approximately 130 paratroopers from Company B, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, were welcomed planeside by Lithuanian soldiers as well as distinguished visitors, including Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite.
The Soldiers are here to conduct an unscheduled training exercise with their Lithuanian counterparts at the Rukla training area, to enhance their training relationship and assure NATO allies of America's commitment to the alliance. The brigade currently has paratroopers in Poland and Latvia conducting similar training, with a planned arrival in Estonia as well.
"The 173rd Airborne Brigade is not just another American unit. This is our most prestigious brigade in the United States Army," said Maj. Gen. Richard C. Longo, deputy commanding general of U.S. Army Europe, and commander, U.S. Army NATO. "They're the most relevant, best-prepared, the best-led, the best-disciplined [brigade in the Army]. I guarantee to you that they will make [us] proud as they train with the soldiers from Lithuania."
The 173rd Airborne is U.S. Army Europe's Contingency Response Force, capable of projecting forces to conduct the full of range of military operations across the United State European, Central and African Command areas of responsibility.
"American and Lithuanian Soldiers have stood in formation before," said Lt. Gen. Arvydas Pocius, the Lithuanian chief of defense. "They've served in the Balkans, Iraq and now are working shoulder to shoulder in Afghanistan."
The two brigades have trained together, most recently in NATO Exercise Steadfast Jazz in November in Drawsko Pomorskie, Poland. Drawsko Pomorskie is currently host to 173rd Soldiers training alongside Polish paratroopers.
"We all know the context, the reasons for your arrival in Lithuania today and these reasons go beyond common training," said Juozas Olekas, the Lithuanian minster of defense. "Your deployment is needed for the security of the NATO alliance and for the stability on the European continent. These testing times reaffirm the importance of the alliance and the importance of the U.S. military presence in Europe."
Through rotational deployments, bilateral training and exercises the U.S. will maintain a presence in the region for the next few months and beyond, including Exercise Saber Strike, scheduled in to be held here in Lithuania in June.
"As we look to the future, we are strengthened and reassured by our strong bilateral partnership in the strongest alliance the world has known," said Deborah A. McCarthy, the American ambassador to Lithuania. "As NATO allies, bound by our strong transatlantic values and holding a common vision of a Europe that is free and at peace, we resolve to continue and expand our cooperation in the Baltic region and beyond to build a more prosperous and secure future."