PABRADE, LITHUANIA - As multinational land forces mass in the forests and open plains of Lithuania for exercise Saber Strike 2015, and their strength on the ground is greater than ever. In the skies over Pabrade today, though, air power defined multinational partnerships.
In the air above the training grounds at the Gen. Silvestras Zukauskas Training Area here, two Apache A-64 Longbow helicopters operated by A Company, 2-159th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 12th Combat Aviation Brigade, guarded a German Reconnaissance platoon on the ground, awaiting pickup of simulated wounded by five UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters flown by B Company, 43rd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division.
As the Black Hawks touched down in a massive swirl of yellow sand and debris kicked up by the spinning rotors of the helicopters, crew chief Staff Sgt. Carlos Cruz slid the side door back on his Black Hawk, Chock 4, and, with hand and arm signals, gave the German medic the okay to come out into the open with her wounded Soldiers.
"Working with other units, especially multinational ones, is hard sometimes," said Cruz, a native of Mangilao, Guam. "The language barrier slows things down sometimes, but we got there in the end. Everyone speaks 'army."
As soon as the German medic had her patients secured in the aircraft, pilot, Maj. Patrick Wilde pulled up on the elevator arm and Chock 4 lifted into the air. Patrick, the 43rd's executive officer and detachment officer in charge for Saber Strike 2015, said that assets like his in the air, ready to go at a moments notice, was key to a sustainable partnership with our allied forces.
"Being able to bring our knowledge and expertise to our partners and allies is a huge step in continuing interoperability in the region," said the Brevard, North Carolina, native. "We're learning to work together as one team, and bring the fight as a much larger and more competent force."
The Saber Strike exercise program is an ongoing USAREUR-led cooperative training effort focused on Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. This year includes participation from U.S. Air Forces in Europe (USAFE), U.S. Navy forces in Europe (NAVEUR), U.S. Marine Forces Europe and Africa (MARFOREUR/AF), the U.S. Army and Air National Guard, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, and United Kingdom. The exercise trains participants on command and control as well as interoperability with regional partners. All activities will feature joint, multinational training among the participating nations.