Pennsylvania National Guard Soldiers train with Lithuanian Land Forces
U.S. Soldiers from the Pennsylvania National Guard and Lithuanian Land Forces members take part in an an orientation on Lithuanian weapons in Rukla, Lithuania, June 9, 2014. The training during the annual Pennsylvania Guard-Lithunian forces exercise Saber Rattle, is in support of the ongoing U.S. Army Europe-led multinational exercise Saber Strike 2014.

RUKLA, Lithuania (June 13, 2014) -- Soldiers with the Pennsylvania Army National Guard are training with Lithuanian Land Forces as part of Operation Saber Rattle, a combined training event in support of the U.S. Army Europe-led multinational exercise Saber Strike 2014.

Guard Soldiers of Troop C, 2nd Squadron, 104th Cavalry Regiment, arrived in Lithuania June 6, and have spent their time training with Lithuanian Land Forces on weapons tactics, stability operations and military battle drills in preparation for the combined training exercise. The unit is part of the 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 28th Infantry Division.

Saber Rattle is an annual exercise that trains the Pennsylvania National Guard and Lithuanian Land Forces side by side. This year they are training in conjunction with Saber Strike 2014 in Lithuania, working alongside NATO and partner forces from throughout the region, including Lithuanian, Danish, Latvian and Polish forces.

"This is my first experience overseas. It's a great opportunity to be here and get to experience the culture and lifestyle, along with their military tactics and weapons," said 1st Lt. Mark Dwyer, executive officer of the 56th Stryker Brigade.

The Soldiers of the 56th linked up with a Lithuanian reconnaissance platoon to familiarize their counterparts with the U.S. Stryker Assault Vehicle and provide preliminary marksmanship instruction on the U.S. M2 .50 caliber, as well as the M240L machine guns.

Members of the Lithuanian reconnaissance platoon were divided among four Stryker vehicles to role-play as one of the seven-member scout teams. The teams consist of a driver, gunner, Stryker commander and four cavalry scouts.

Over the course of their training in Lithuania, the 56th also plans to show Lithuanian Land Forces how to use the unmanned aircraft system that helps Stryker teams on the ground with aerial surveillance and reconnaissance.

"I would like to become familiar with the equipment they have here ... and to work closely with the Soldiers on the ground," said Lithuanian 2nd Lt. Andreus Gasperavicius, reconnaissance platoon commander.

Day two of the training consisted of Lithuanian forces taking U.S. Soldiers to a firing range for weapons training drills and tactics. The U.S. and Lithuanian soldiers also spent the day firing a variety of weapons, including the M9 and Glock 17 9mm pistols, and AK-47, M4 and G36 assault rifles.

It was a whirlwind experience for Pvt. Darian Hose, a cavalry scout who has only been with the 56th for four months. "I'm really excited to get to shoot their weapons," he said.

Both forces participated in target identification, pop-up target firing drills, reflexive fire, movement drills and a buddy team obstacle course.

"My favorite was the obstacle course," said cavalry scout Spc. Chris Richmond. "Going full speed with live ammo isn't something we get to do much in the U.S. It was pretty awesome."

The Pennsylvania National Guard and Lithuanian troops have worked together to strengthen relationships between the two forces since 1993, as part of the Department of Defense State Partnership Program. The SPP links U.S. states with partner countries around the world to support mutual security cooperation objectives.

"We are looking forward to working with our NATO allies and building our state partnership with the Lithuanians," said 1st Sgt. Richard Atkinson of the 56th.

Atkinson said the exercise is a joint training mission intended to provide U.S. and NATO allies with an opportunity to interact and train on each other's equipment and weapons systems.

"One of our goals is to enhance interoperability," said Atkinson. "We want to share the strength and solidarity of NATO."

While the Pennsylvanians are here, a group of Lithuanian infantrymen is at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa., training with other members of the 28th Infantry Division. See related links.

Page last updated Mon June 16th, 2014 at 08:02