MILITARY CAMP ADAZI, Latvia (May 1, 2014) -- The commander of U.S. Army forces in Europe visited paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade "Sky Soldiers," Tuesday and Wednesday, participating in unscheduled exercises in Lithuania and Latvia.

Lt. Gen. Donald M. Campbell Jr. visited half of the approximately 600 paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade, based out of Vicenza, Italy, who are deployed for training rotations in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. The Soldiers are here to enhance ongoing military-to-military relationships and demonstrate assurance of America's commitment to its NATO allies.

The 173rd Airborne is the Army Contingency Response Force in Europe, capable of projecting forces to conduct the full of range of military operations across the United State European, Central and Africa Commands areas of responsibility.

In Lithuania, the general met with leadership from the ministry of defense and the "Iron Wolf" Mechanized Infantry Brigade, the unit hosting and training directly with the Americans.

"Our paratroopers are looking forward to training here and jumping out of planes," said Campbell during a briefing of Iron Wolf's capabilities. "We're prepared to do any training that the [Lithuanians] want to do."

The general then went to a machine-gun range and met Lithuanian and American paratroopers from Company B, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, who were conducting crew drills and live fire with each other's weapons systems.

"I've had experience working with U.S. Soldiers before in Afghanistan and Iraq, but never here in Lithuania," said Lithuanian army Capt. Gedinmas Alauskaus. "I hope to receive the best training for our soldiers during this period."

The next day, Campbell traveled to Military Camp Adazi in Latvia, to meet with Sky Soldiers from Company A, 1st Battalon, 503rd Infantry Regiment, who were conducting a stress-shooting competition with their Latvian allies.

"We must be stronger, more cooperative and more ready -- and receive more and better training," said Latvian army Sgt. Morris Efners, a soldier with the 1st Infantry Battalion, Latvian Land Forces Infantry Brigade, speaking of the training the two armies are doing together.

After the competition, Campbell spent some time with the 173rd paratroopers, answering questions about the no-notice deployment and encouraging them to take full advantage of this training opportunity.

"Thanks for what you are doing, stay safe and enjoy the training," said Campbell.

The current exercises are part of a series of expanded American land force training activities with European partners that are scheduled to take place in the next few months and beyond.