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NEWS | May 29, 2014

Michigan Soldiers in Latvia for joint exercise

By Capt. Charles Calio Michigan National Guard

CAMP ADAZI, Latvia - U.S. Army soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade and the Michigan Army National Guard conducted a command post and tactical field exercise alongside Latvia's 1st Infantry Battalion, Land Forces Infantry Brigade May 25 at Military Camp Adazi in Latvia.

Elements of the 173rd Airborne Brigade and the Michigan National Guard are in the Baltic region participating in allied military exercises with armed forces from Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. These training exercises are designed to enhance security cooperation between the United States and its allies in the region.

Michigan and Latvia have been paired in the State Partnership Program for 21 years.

"I'm so proud of the Soldiers of the Michigan National Guard and the paratroopers of the 173rd," said Maj. Gen. Gregory J. Vadnais, the adjutant general of the Michigan National Guard, who was in Latvia observing the on-going training exercises. "Their ability to deploy, train and accomplish their mission objectives on such short notice has been very impressive."

Capt. James Marione, commander of A Company, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, said he has been impressed with his Latvian counterparts.

"I didn't know what to expect when I first arrived in Latvia, especially considering the size of the country's armed forces," he said. "Having trained with the Latvians for about a month now, I can tell you that they are one of the most professional and competent armies I have had a pleasure to train with. The smaller size of the Latvian army works to their advantage as they are better able to focus on individual soldier training."

The command post and tactical field exercise tested the interoperability of the U.S. and Latvian militaries, and was part of a series of land-forces and naval training exercises taking place throughout Latvia. The training exercise, named Namejs, is one of the largest joint and combined military exercises to occur in Latvia since it obtained independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991.

The 173rd Airborne Brigade, based in Vicenza, Italy, is the Army Contingency Response Force in Europe, and is capable of projecting forces to conduct the full of range of military operations across the United States European, Central and Africa commands' areas of responsibility.