By Spc. Thomas ScaggsFebruary 17, 2018
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- Soldiers from 3-10 General Support Aviation Battalion, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division (LI), were the first U.S. Army aviation Soldiers to be presented with the Lithuanian Armed Forces Medal for Mutual Support on February 9 at Fort Drum, New York.
Lithuanian Col. Alvydas Šiuparis, Defense Attaché for the Lithuanian Embassy in Washington, D.C., traveled to present the award to 101 Soldiers from 3-10 GSAB and two Airmen from the 18th Weather Squadron. The award recognized the Soldiers and Airmen for their positive contribution to training operations among NATO Allies in Lithuania, during their recent rotation to Europe in support of Atlantic Resolve. Šiuparis went on to attend the battalion's formal ball that night as the guest of honor.
"It's very important for us to commemorate Task Force Phoenix, which has just returned from the mission abroad, and the great job that they did," explained Šiuparis. "This ceremony is a symbolic gesture from Lithuanians, saying thank you for their service and showing our appreciation. The U.S. Army has shown great support by dedicating assets to the Baltic countries, like Task Force Phoenix in Lithuania. Together, we are able to train and improve our interoperability, building relationships with each other and understanding how to plan and execute operations using our combined assets."
Lt. Col. Ryan Miedema, commander of 3-10 GSAB, said the award was created by Lithuania to recognize the hard work of NATO Allies who train directly in Lithuania, ensuring peace and stability in the region and helping to deter foreign aggression. To qualify, a Soldier must spend an extended period of time in Lithuania and may only be awarded the medal once.
Miedema explained that just because his battalion has returned from Europe, it doesn't mean that the strong ties built overseas should be cut.
"We should continue to foster relationships with all of our NATO Allies," emphasized Miedema. "Although we are here at Fort Drum, we should continue to build relationships, leveraging the technology we have today, as this will help us better understand each other and, ideally, make integration in potential future operations quicker. Even though the Army and NATO are big organizations, we never know when we might find ourselves working together again. The longer we can keep these relationships up, the better, and demonstrates our resolve to our Allies."
Training together can make for an easy environment for servicemembers from Allied nations to develop a deep bond with each other. By inviting Šiuparis to be the distinguished guest at 3-10's formal ball later that evening, that bond and appreciation can be passed on to U.S. Army Families.
"It is always great to share a bit of tradition with one of our Allies, especially since we were able to share so many similar events while we were across Europe," said Miedema. "Most importantly with a senior Lithuanian officer give his thanks directly to Families, it ideally helps the Families visually see the impact their Soldier had and just maybe, justify them being separated for nine months."