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NEWS | June 7, 2022

Pennsylvania National Guard Leaders Visit SPP Partner Lithuania

By Brad Rhen, Joint Force Headquarters - Pennsylvania National Guard

FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa. – Senior Pennsylvania National Guard leaders visited Lithuania to meet with Lithuanian military leaders and visit Pennsylvania National Guard members deployed there.

Maj. Gen. Mark Schindler, Pennsylvania adjutant general,  and Command Sgt. Maj. Jon Worley, senior enlisted leader, visited May 17-21.

Brig. Gen. Michael Regan Jr., deputy adjutant general-air, and Chief Master Sergeant Paul Frisco Jr., state command chief-air, were joined by the commanders and senior enlisted leaders from Pennsylvania’s three air wings May 22-24.

The meeting with Lithuanian military leaders reaffirmed Pennsylvania’s commitment to its partnership with Lithuania, which began in 1993 through the Department of Defense National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program.

The visits coincided with the deployment of more than 450 Pennsylvania National Guard members to Lithuania in support of Defender Europe 22, NATO exercise Flaming Thunder and other engagements.

Schindler met with Lithuanian Minister of National Defense Arvydas Anusauskas; Vice-Minister of National Defense Margiris Aubeckevicius; Lt. Gen. Valdemaras Rupsys, chief of defense of the Lithuanian Armed Forces; and Brig. Gen. Raimundas Vaiksnoras, commander of the Lithuanian Land Forces.

Schindler also met with Ambassador Robert Gilchrist, the U.S. ambassador to Lithuania.

“The State Partnership Program represents Pennsylvania’s commitment to regional security in the Baltics with our partner Lithuania,” Schindler said. “I was proud to visit and thank over 450 Pennsylvania National Guard Soldiers and Airmen building readiness with our allied partners in Pabrade, Lithuania, during Exercise Flaming Thunder. I also met with Lithuanian civilian and military senior leaders to discuss additional opportunities for enhancing our partnership, demonstrating our steadfast commitment, and increasing our collective readiness.”

Regan said the trip was the first Pennsylvania Air Guard in-person leadership engagement in Lithuania since 2019.

“The visit was a tremendous success and important to renewing existing relationships and establishing new connections with our Lithuanian Air Force partners while briefing on respective capabilities, personnel and missions,” Regan said.

The Air Guard group visited the Kazlu Rūda Range, which was enlarged in 2018 by the Pennsylvania Air National Guard’s 201st RED HORSE Squadron. A-10 Warthogs and crews from the Maryland Air National Guard were training and conducting bombing and gun runs with Spanish F-18 fighters. The F-18s are part of NATO’s Baltic Air Policing Mission and stationed at Lithuania’s Šiauliai Air Base, which the group also visited.

The group met with 201st RED HORSE Squadron personnel constructing a pre-engineered building in Klaipėda for Lithuania’s Special Operations Forces.

“Our work and cooperation with our Lithuanian partners is a great source of pride for the Airmen and Soldiers of the Pennsylvania National Guard, and the interactions on this week-long visit were mutually beneficial to fostering plans for future engagements and training deployments, which are critical to continuing to strengthen our robust partnership of almost 30 years,” Regan said.

The trip was Worley’s first to Lithuania as the Pennsylvania National Guard’s senior enlisted leader. He met with Command Sgt. Maj. Remigijus Katinas, Lithuanian Armed Forces senior enlisted leader, and Command Sgt. Maj. Darius Masiulis, Lithuanian Land Force command sergeant major.

“My discussions with Sgt. Maj, Katinas and Sgt. Maj. Masiulis revealed the numerous similarities and challenges in dealing with things like training, stationing and equipping,” Worley said. “Though we are over 4,000 miles apart, we are very similar with the issues we face.”

Since the Pennsylvania National Guard and Lithuania began their partnership, they have participated in over 730 engagements.