RUKLA, Lithuania -- Soldiers from 3rd Combined Arms Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, received a hearty thank you and a heartfelt goodbye from the Lithuanian Mechanized Infantry "Iron Wolf" Brigade Sept. 21 at a medal ceremony here.

The U.S. Soldiers were presented with the Lithuanian Armed Forces Medal for Mutual Support, which is given to Allied service members who train with the Lithuanian Army for more than 30 days. The "Speed and Power" Battalion, as it is known, has been training in Lithuania for the past six months. They will be heading back to Fort Stewart next week.

3rd Bn., 69th Arm. Rgmt. has spent the last several months training in Lithuania in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve, a U.S. led effort being conducted in Eastern Europe to demonstrate U.S. commitment to the collective security of NATO and dedication to enduring peace and stability in the region.

Their goals while in Lithuania were to improve interoperability with their NATO Allies by working and training together on a wide range of events; improve both Lithuanian and U.S. forces' overall readiness and enhance the NATO alliance.

U.S. and Lithuanian Soldiers participated together in variety of training exercises and events from building clearing to joint live fires and training sessions. U.S. Soldiers participated in a number of community events that allowed Lithuanian citizens to meet them, get a close look at their equipment and improve the bond between the community and their American visitors.

"The first time I met you, I felt something special in my heart," said Lt. Col. Marius Cesnulevicius, commander, Grand Duke Algirdas Battalion. "I received good support from you. We enjoyed training together."

Lt. Col. Johnny Evans, commander, 3rd Bn., 69th Arm Rgmt., echoed Cesnulevicius when he looked at the assembled Lithuanian and American Soldiers. "This is what the mission is all about; being together, standing shoulder to shoulder with our allies. You will always have a special place in our hearts."

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U.S. Army Europe is uniquely positioned in its 51 country area of responsibility to advance American strategic interests in Europe and Eurasia. The relationships we build during more than 1,000 theater security cooperation events in more than 40 countries each year lead directly to support for multinational contingency operations around the world, strengthen regional partnerships and enhance global security.