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NEWS | June 3, 2022

Pennsylvania Army National Guard Supports Defender Europe 22

By Staff Sgt. Zane Craig, Joint Force Headquarters - Pennsylvania National Guard

FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa. – About 250 Pennsylvania Army National Guard Soldiers deployed to Lithuania in May to support Defender Europe 22 and NATO exercise Flaming Thunder.

The Soldiers, assigned to 1st Battalion, 109th Field Artillery Regiment, 55th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, 28th Infantry Division, drew, employed and turned in Army prepositioned stock and conducted artillery live fires to increase interoperability with NATO partners, especially Pennsylvania’s State Partnership Program partner, Lithuania.

“Up and down the battalion, from our main efforts to our supporting efforts, everyone did an outstanding job and I’m really pleased with where we are,” said Lt. Col. Michael Tornambe, commander of 1st Battalion, 109th Field Artillery Regiment. “The battalion performed exceptionally well. We were able to maintain nine out of nine of our crews certified. We were able to achieve timely and accurate fires for effect, on target.”

The objective of Flaming Thunder was to enhance fires skills and assess units’ ability to complete live fire tasks while creating the conditions for close cooperation of fire support units among NATO allies as part of Defender Europe 22.

Defender Europe is an annual, U.S. Army-led joint exercise to build U.S., NATO and partner militaries’ readiness and interoperability.

The 1-109th had eight Soldiers acting as liaison officers in the multinational Joint Air Ground Integration Cell, essentially replicating a division headquarters. They worked closely with the Lithuanian Land Forces and the German Armed Forces, Tornambe said.

Soldiers with the 1-109th performed 36 fire missions, sending approximately 400 rounds downrange.

Defender Europe 22 included more than 3,437 U.S. and 5,193 multinational service members from 11 allied and partner nations. They conducted operations across nine countries.

The 1-109th’s mission was to move to Europe, draw Army prepositioned stock and execute fires in support of multinational partners before returning home.

“We’ve completed all of our objectives,” said Tornambe. “As a battalion, I’m really excited about where we are.”

Other National Guards participating in Defender Europe 22 included Maryland, West Virginia, Michigan, Illinois and Colorado. The nations participating were Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

“We really appreciated the opportunity to come to Lithuania to display our proficiency,” Tornambe said. “This was an outstanding chance for Soldiers to not only pursue a mission that may have been outside their comfort zone but also be able to work with other nations.”