PEPELISHTE, Republic of Macedonia - The U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Macedonia and the Chief of Defense of the Republic of Macedonian Army observed training at the NATO-led multi-national exercises here May 23, 2012.

Ambassador Paul D. Wohlers and Maj. Gen. Gorancho Koteski visited Krivolak Military Training Area during Exercises Cooperative Longbow and Cooperative Lancer and toured the two training locations at Camps Pepelishte and Strella.

Soldiers from the U.S. Army Europe's 21st Theater Sustainment Command and Joint Multi-national Training Command also participated in the exercises along with the Vermont Army National Guard, who is the state partner to the host country; a total of 25 countries are participating in the exercises which runs May 16-29.

Wohlers saw the multi-national brigade at the Pepelishte training site where operations for Longbow, under the command of Italian Col. Stefano Nigri, is being conducted. Longbow is a brigade-level headquarters command post exercise designed to train within the framework of a NATO Crisis Response Operation.

The ambassador later visited Camp Strella training site where he met leaders and troops and observed Lancer operations, where 275 multi-national troops conducted classroom and field training exercises on selected tactical tasks to improve capabilities in crisis prevention, conflict resolution and post-conflict peace building. Lancer is commander by German Col. Hans Reimer.

The tasks the troops are conducting during the course of the six-day Lancer FTX include cordon and search, mounted patrol and entry control tactical operations. Reimer assured the ambassador of the great gains that the platoon-size teams have made so far.

"They are not just getting better day by day, they are getting better hour by hour," said Reimer.

The Lancer operation was exclusively planned, prepared and executed by the participating nations with the goal of improving co-operability, interactivity and integration capabilities.

Wohlers also addressed the multi-national troops participating in the field training exercise at Camp Strella.

"It is a great pleasure for me here today to see all of you at Cooperative Longbow and Cooperative Lancer," said Wohlers. "This is the type of event of the future; fighting terrorism and improving the environment all around the world."

Koteski also addressed the formation of troops and encouraged them to keep up the good job they were doing.

"I am glad to see Macedonian, [all the countries here] and American troops here working together. I hope they will all find common solutions and wish you success with this exercise," said Koteski.

Wohlers concluded his visit with a press statement to invited national media where he stressed the importance of the exercises here in the host country and the partnership between the U.S. and the Republic of Macedonia.

Continuing the cooperation and the partnership in many different areas including these exercises are just one more example of all of these things and so many different experiences being accomplished here in Macedonia; and the partnership with the U.S. and the Republic of Macedonia is very strong and continuing to get stronger, said Wohlers.

When asked to comment on the outcome of the Chicago Summit by a member of the host nation media, Wohlers stressed that the decisions made during the summit were not a negative response about the host country's aspirations to become a NATO member.

"The main topic of Chicago is going to be Afghanistan." said Wohlers. "In the long run there is no one, no country in the world and certainly no one person happier than I when Macedonia joins the Euro zone community, NATO and European Union."

"I'm sure it's going to happen, it's a matter of when not if and we're going to continue to move towards working on the issues that need to be resolved," said Wohlers.

This is the first time the Republic of Macedonia has hosted these exercises within the framework of the Partnership for Peace program, which takes place every two years in different PfP countries where NATO members and partners nations train to increase bilateral cooperation.

Partnership for Peace is a program launched in 1994 and is based on practical bilateral cooperation between an individual country and NATO. It allows partner countries to build relationships with NATO, choosing their own priorities for cooperation.

The purpose of the PfP program is to increase stability, build confidence, diminish threats to peace and build strengthened security ralationships.

*(The United States recognizes the Republic of Macedonia by its constitutional name.)