PABRADE, Lithuania - Nearly 4,000 Soldiers from 11 NATO countries are in Lithuania to take part in Exercise Iron Sword 2016, which runs from Nov. 20 to Dec. 3.
Iron Sword is a Lithuanian led exercise designed to train and evaluate the Lithuanian Mechanized Infantry Brigade (Iron Wolf) Brigade, and the Motorized Infantry Brigade (Zemaitija); as well as promote regional stability and security, while strengthening partnership capacity, and fostering trust while improving interoperability between Lithuania, the U.S., and NATO member nations. It will take place at two locations in Lithuania, the General Silvestras Zukauskas training area in Pabrade and the Gaiziunai training area in Rukla.
"There are challenges for the armed forces waiting ahead that we do not know of today," said Brig. Gen. Valdemaras Rupsys, commander of the Lithuanian Land Forces. "Therefore, the ability to adapt to a new situation swiftly is vital, and troops and headquarters have to be prepared for that. A quick and efficient response to all units in the area to conventional threats is one of the main objectives of the exercise."
The U.S. Army's 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat (Airborne) is one of the NATO countries participating in the exercise, which will consist of joint airborne operations, defensive and offensive operations, tactical movements, and combat support. The other NATO countries participating are: Estonia, Latvia, the United Kingdom, Canada, Poland, Luxembourg, Romania, Slovenia and Germany.
Capt. Anthony Formica, commander of Able Company, 503rd Inf. Regt, said that there were two objectives his unit was trying to achieve by participating in the exercise.
"The overreaching objective here is to have secured communication amongst all of our multinational partners, without using liaison officers," said Formica. "This has, until very recently, been difficult for NATO forces to achieve. However, Iron Sword will prove the concept and highlight the capability."
Formica also said that during the exercise, his unit will be part of a multi-national battalion, and that he hopes to be able to highlight the capabilities of his infantry company, while demonstrating how much more effective they are when combined together in a joint force.
"We are strong. Exercises are excellent opportunities to demonstrate our best abilities," said Lithuanian Col. Dailus Polekauskas. "By sharing our experiences and learning from each other, we are becoming stronger. I want Iron Sword to be a serious challenge for all the participants.
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.