KLAIPEDA, Lithuania – “Contact, 200 meters left,” shouted a dismounted infantryman assigned to 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment.
Sprinting through knee high snow, 2-8 Cav. Reg. Troopers bounded forward towards a white plume of smoke screening the trees in front of them at a Lithuanian training area in Kairai, just off the coast of the Baltic Sea on Feb. 21, 2021. Taking cover behind trees and snow berms to conceal their silhouettes, the infantrymen cautiously move forward scanning for entrenched mock enemy forces.
“Today we are playing the bad guys,” said Capt. Evan Ringel, Bravo Company commander. “We conducted interoperability training with elements of the Lithuanian 21st “Dragoon” Battalion.”
Playing the role of enemy forces was new for the 2-8 Cav. Reg. “Stallion” Troopers as they tested the skills of 21st Dragoon Battalion and volunteer force elements as they defended their area of operations from the invading force.
In comparison to U.S. forces and their heavy fighting vehicles, Lithuanian forces are considerably smaller. According to Ringel, what they lack in sheer numbers, Lithuanian forces make up in battlefield tactics and lethality as they employ unconventional warfare with products easily found in local hardware stores and their ability to deploy and fight in small groups.
“We are setting an ambush here” said Lt. Eimantas Maslauskas, Lithuanian Volunteer Forces, 3rd District. “This training is specialized to fight with techniques against tanks.”
Maslauskas and his team of five, placed several ambushes along a two mile stretch of road. They emplaced improvised explosive devices and camouflaged soldiers carrying grenade launchers. Their mission: to disrupt or disable the movement of Bravo Company’s Bradley Fighting Vehicles and dismounted infantrymen.
As the Troopers advanced through the training maneuver, the allied partners hid throughout the route ready to demonstrate their lethality. One Bradley took a critical hit from an improvised explosive device hidden within tree branches and snow. The only indicator, a thin strand of wire that blended into tree branches.
As the disabled Bradley halted, dismounted infantrymen exited the rear door. Seconds later, a small explosion in the distance drew attention as Lithuanian forces flanked their counterparts. The distraction was a lesson in situational awareness.
“We may have them on sheer numbers, but their ability to halt our advance with their tactics is a force multiplier,” Ringel said. “They don’t hold anything back and train hard. We definitely would have taken some casualties today.”
“The ambushes were on point. They were concealed well, we couldn’t see them even when we were right on top of them,” said Cpl. Joseph Salamon, a Stallion infantryman who participated in the scenario. “They did really well, they know their stuff.”
At the conclusion of the training scenario, the tactics used by the Lithuanian forces reinforced their belief and understanding of the effectiveness their training could have on a future battlefield.
For the Stallions, they got an inside look into the creation and use of unconventional warfare that will enable them to better identify and thwart improvised explosive devices and distraction maneuvers in the future.