RUKLA, Lithuania -- "Hang it!" "Fire!" These were the commands from the squad leader as paratroopers from Able Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, practiced firing the M224 60mm mortar system at an abandoned airfield near Rukla, Lithuania from Oct. 3 to 6.

"We are out here training to keep our section proficient, but also to train the forward observers, and make them comfortable with using the mortar system," said Staff Sgt. Pablo Caraballo, the mortar section noncommissioned officer in charge.

Every light infantry company in the Army has a mortar section attached to them to provide indirect fire for the unit.

"We allow the rifle company the freedom to maneuver by suppressing the enemy with either delay or proximity fire," said 1st Lt. Tanner Hildebrand.

"Delay fire" refers to fire used to puncture through an object like a building, while "proximity fire" refers to fire that explodes in the air, which is more effective at taking out a unit.

While artillery can produce greater firepower, mortar systems are more flexible for infantry units to use in combat because of their mobility, ease of maneuver, and ability to engage targets over a variety of terrain.

Caraballa said the training was especially important as warfare appears to be shifting back to more traditional means.

"In war, the enemy will likely be concealed in bunkers and buildings, mortars can bring them out," he said.

Able Company arrived in Lithuania last month to embark on a six-month rotation to train with their Lithuanian partners as part of 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.


The 173rd Airborne Brigade, based in Vicenza, Italy, is the Army Contingency Response Force in Europe, and is capable of projecting forces to conduct a full range of military operations across the United States European, Central and Africa Command areas of responsibility within 18 hours.


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.