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Air drop resupplies troops during Exercise Saber Strike 17

By Sgt. Mark Otte | 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, Texas Army National Guard | June 16, 2017

PABRADE, Lithuania –With the sun about to set behind the dense Lithuanian wood line, the silhouettes of two Soldiers outlined by the glowing sunset could be seen swatting at the swarms of mosquitos, while standing atop a camouflage Mercedes-Benz SUV.

Just as the sun was about to dip out of sight the Soldiers' hand-held radios came alive with chatter.

"Herkey is inbound, 35 seconds," Air Force Master Sgt. Jeremy Francisco, the drop zone safety officer, shouted to Army Sgt. Ellsworth Cupid, the malfunctions noncommissioned officer for the operation.

Right on cue, the C-130 aircraft crested the horizon, with its back ramp lowered, ready to push its parachute-rigged cargo out the back.

During Exercise Saber Strike 17, which takes place May 28 – June 24, 20 NATO and partnering nations participate in the U.S. Army Europe-led exercise, conducting training missions across four Baltic States. The exercise crossing Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian and Polish borders, includes over 11,000 troops, and approximately 2000 soldiers camped outside the Pabrade, Lithuania area where the C-130 dropped off its payload.

Meals Ready To Eat were pushed out of a C-130 as it flew, dropping the goods right on target during Friday's supply drop. The location of the landing was established only by a visual reference point for the aircrew. Members of the Minnesota National guard's 2-136 Combined Arms Battalion were standing by as the parachutes hit the ground and quickly retrieved the life-supporting goods and transported them back to post.

Though the Soldiers stationed in the Pabrade area had no actual shortage of supplies, the supply drop offered good training. Being able to coordinate supply drops that deliver life support to any NATO partner demonstrates Saber Strike 17s focus on collaboration, and turning multiple branches into a single force, ready and capable of deterring any adversary who threatens a NATO partner.

While Francisco set the point of impact for the Container Delivery Systems that were filled with cases of MREs, his Lithuanian counterparts made sure the area was safe for the inbound aircraft to make the drop.

"We are clearing the area, ensuring that it is safe to operate the aircraft in this area," said Capt. Tomas Vilkauskas, a Lithuanian soldier. "After that, the drop zone master does his job and we release the aircraft from the area."

The air delivery of food to the soldiers in Pabrade was the first training mission in the Lithuanian area for Saber Strike 17, but Vilkauskas said the U.S. and Lithuanian partners work hand in hand often.

"We are working with the Americans a lot," Vilkauska said. "This year was busy. We have been having [training] operations every month."

With four packages containing 40 cases of MREs each, the air-dropped food could sustain a company-sized element in the field for almost a week—a capability that allows NATO Forces to be in remote areas for longer periods without being tied to traditional supply routes.

"I have done a lot of these drops in theater," Cupid said about the resupply training mission for Saber Strike 17. "Today's drop is being done the same way they would be done in the real world."

Bringing real-world experience to Saber Strike 17 and sharing it with NATO partners has expanded the operational capabilities of all involved, according to Cupid.

Exercise Iron Wolf, the Lithuanian portion of the Exercise Saber Strike 17, is just one area of operation in the Saber Strike series, where multinational forces display the strong bonds of the alliance the exercise participants hope to further strengthen.