U.S. and Lithuanian forces gathered at a large field just down the hard-pack, dirt road leading to the exercise area. Soldiers were going over checks of weapons and equipment for the upcoming assault on their respective objective points.
The U.S. Army's Team Eagle, Task Force 2-7 Infantry and their Lithuanian counterparts, the Iron Wolf Brigade had been training together for weeks in what culminated in a 3-day exercise designed to keep Soldiers thinking on their feet and relying on their training.
They trained in the most realistic and unpredictable environment that Teams Eagle's commander, Capt. Bryan Adams, could come up with. Adams said he had a two part plan to train his and the Lithuanian soldiers.
"First was a plan to solidify the importance of doctrine in combined arms maneuver at the squad level," Adams said. "Second I had to develop training that would challenge the agility and adaptability of the squad leaders to maneuver their elements in situations that they are not familiar with."
The Iron Wolf Brigade assaulted their objective, a small cluster of sand dunes covered with scrub brush and sparse tree cover. Atop some of these dunes were green target silhouettes simulating an opposing force.
In between these small hills were 25m to 75m stretches of deep sand that the Wolves needed to cross by bounding and laying down suppressive fire with light machine guns while rifles picked off targets, all under the watchful eyes of Lithuanian range safeties.
"This terrain will keep you guessing," said Sgt. Joseph Poole, 2nd squad leader for 1st platoon with Team Eagle, and native of Columbia, South Carolina. "Unlike Afghanistan, this part of Lithuania can go from lush forest to desert, complete with high winds and stinging sand, in just a kilometer or two."
From a Lithuanian point of view, however, this is the home turf. They know this training area and have used it extensively. But Adams threw a wrench into their battle plans, and it kept the Iron Wolves guessing where the actual objective was.
"I like training with the Americans," Pvt. Arnas Cemerka, a 22-year-old native of Vilkaviskis, Lithuania. "It's hard and fast and makes you think about what to do next."
When the Wolves took the last hill and turned to see their progress through the wind-blown terrain, they smiled and shook hands with each other. Then they turned to leave, joking with each other jovially about minor mistakes, trudging through the deeps sands and back to hot meals and warm beds.
As part of a larger operation being conducted by NATO forces throughout Europe called Atlantic Resolve, exercises like this one represent multi-national cooperation and communication. Interoperability is one way to ensure that NATO remains a successful political and military alliance, and Atlantic Resolve provides the opportunity to make that happen on a grand scale. This results in improved collective security, strengthens relations with our allies and partner nations.