RUKLA, Lithuania -- Since their introduction to the Army back in the 1940's, one of the key advantages of airborne forces is their ability to jump, land and fight in any situation. No matter where it has been, from the shores of Normandy, to the jungles of Panama, American airborne forces have been able to enter and make an immediate impact on the battle field.
Able Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry has been part of this illustrious history. They earned their first combat jump star when they conducted the only combat jump during the war in Vietnam. Almost 36 years later, they pinned on a second star as they led the coalition invasion into Iraq with a jump into Bashur.
This past September, they continued writing their history as they made a non-combat jump into Lithuania as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve. Since then they have worked hand-in-hand with their Lithuanian counterparts. They have participated in four multi-national exercises (Vytis Tiger, Strong Shield, Sun Stroke and Iron Sword), as well as focused on collective training.
"For the past three months, most of our training has focused specifically on live fire exercises," said Capt. Anthony Formica, commander Able Company. "When we return in January, we will shift our focus to individual skills training."
Formica said the shift in focus will be due to the company getting new Paratroopers as well as shuffling the teams around to give more non-commissioned officers an opportunity to be in leadership positions.
While the focus will shift in the New Year, Able Company is still focusing on training.
"Most units don't have the opportunity to go somewhere and focus exclusively on training," said Sgt. Joshua Boguslofski, Able Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment. "This is a rare opportunity for us."
One of the things that Able Company has had to deal with in Lithuania is the cold weather. Recently, the unit participated in Exercise Iron Sword, which mostly took place in snow and sub-freezing temperatures.
"We anticipated the cold weather," said Formica. "We made sure to train our guys on how to properly wear their cold weather gear, as well as recognize the signs of cold weather injuries and mitigate the risks."
Formica added that the cold weather makes them operate slower than they normally would and that some equipment doesn't work as well.
"You have to be mentally as well as physically acclimatized to the cold," Formica said.
When they return from their holiday break in Italy, the Paratroopers will be rested and ready to brave the frigid temperatures of the Baltics and continue training with their Lithuanian counterparts.
"The Lithuanians have been great," said Formica. "Even before we arrived, the Lithuanians had reached out and offered their assistance. We look forward to continuing our great relationship with them in the new year."
Able Company arrived in Lithuania in September 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.