JONISKIS, Lithuania - Some of the most popular video games in the world right now are first player shooter games. These are the games where you as a Soldier, engage the enemy in various terrain maps. Occasionally, they take place in fields and farmlands; most often they are in urban areas. Your mission is to defend the home front.
But what if it wasn't a video game? What if this was a possible reality that you would need to be ready for? How would you do it?
The Soldiers belonging to the Lithuanian National Defense Volunteer Forces are dedicated and willing to spend their weekends training to keep their nation safe. The last weekend in October, was no different.
"We are here to evaluate our company's ability to conduct a full spectrum of operations in defense of Lithuania," said Maj. Mantas Juozaitis, commander 6th Territorial Unit of Prisikelimo Military District, Lithuanian National Defense Volunteer Forces during Exercise Sun Stroke, which took place Oct. 28-30.
Assisting them in this exercise were their friends, Soldiers from Latvia and the United States.
Sun Stroke is the culminating exercise for the 6th Territorial Unit, and works to build readiness and conduct joint operations between the Volunteer Forces and Lithuania's NATO partners. It consisted of nearly 400 Soldiers from the United States, Lithuania, and Latvia.
"They are really good at blending in to the background and hiding out in plain sight," said 1st Lt. Mike Durante, Able Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade. Durante, and his platoon participated in the exercise.
Durante commended the Lithuanian's ability to use the local area to their advantage. "We stayed in a school in town and the Lithuanians used a homeless shelter as their operations center," he said.
The Paratroopers objective was to conduct raids and ambushes on soft targets while partnered with the Lithuanian Volunteer Forces to show case that NATO forces can enhance their capabilities and operate in major population centers.
"The initial coordination was a little difficult," said Durante, "but once we initiated our objective, everything went smooth." Assisting the Paratroopers in reaching their objective was a squad of Latvians and Lithuanians.
"It was good that we got to work with our Allies," said Sgt. 1st Class Javier Hernandez, Able Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade. "We got to see how they will fight and we also got to see what types of equipment they have."
Once the objective had been met, and the high value target had been captured, the exercise ended and everyone went home, secure in their knowledge, that the Lithuanian National Defense Volunteer Forces can operate with their NATO Allies and are trained prepared.
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.
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