RUKLA, LITHUANIA - In the morning hours at the Great Lithuanian Hetman Jonusas Radvila Training Regiment, here, American, Lithuanian and German forces gathered for a final force on force, multinational training event, that would put everything they have learned from each other over the course of Saber Strike 2015 into practice.
After nine days of 24-hour operations and the various nations switching roles from attack to defense, U.S. Army Team Eagle, Task Force 2-7 Infantry found themselves at the north eastern section of the training area, dug into foxholes and forward observation posts, waiting to defend an airfield runway with their M1126 Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicles and troops on the ground.
The attacking force, made up of Lithuanian Land Forces, operating M113 Armored Personnel Carriers, and the German army with snipers and an Aladin unmanned aerial vehicle, began movement from the south, taking down defending forces that had dug in south of the airfield in an attempt to slow the attack advance.
Despite the force on force exercise though, what the NATO partners have learned from each other about interoperability and cooperation has, as Cpl. Zachary Lubbers said, opened their eyes to the possibilities of fighting as one force some day.
"Interoperability amongst NATO allies is necessary," said Lubbers, a native of Louisville, Kentucky. "We didn't know much about each other's tactics, and by notionally working against each other, the experience has made me an all-around better Soldier."
There are struggles as well. The language barrier has always been a problem for troops on the ground and in the air, but that is mostly overcome with translators and a basic understanding of one another's language. But, as Pfc. Jordan Brown says, there is another significant factor as well.
"It's been an eye-opening experience for what the Lithuanian Land Forces have to face here, "said the Bar Harbor, Maine, native. "They have to overcome many challenges that we (U.S. Army) don't have to face because of our budget. I've been impressed with how they deal with that shortcoming."
At the end of the day's exercise, all three armies came together at the end of the airfield runway, once again, one unified force. Vehicles were cleaned out, extra rounds were fired off and as a final salute, Team Eagle's Stryker crews fired off a barrage of smoke canisters to applause and cheers. Good training, new friendships and continuing military and tactical education for all.