FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa. – Fort Indiantown Gap hosted approximately 40 soldiers from Lithuania's land forces reserve component June 11-21 for an annual platoon exchange, part of the Pennsylvania National Guard's State Partnership Program.
Approximately 40 Soldiers from the Pennsylvania National Guard traveled to Lithuania at the same time for joint training in urban warfare operations as part of Exercise Iron Wolf 17.
"Lithuanians train at a very high level," said 1st Lt. Eric Swartz, an infantry officer with C Company, 1st Battalion, 110th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 28th Infantry Division, Pennsylvania Army National Guard.
"They know how to push each other to the limit and they'll continue to push and motivate each other until they master a tactic. After each rehearsal, they'll review their performance in detail and offer each other tips and critiques."
The American and Lithuanian Soldiers trained together to master tasks such as strong point defense, entry and clearing of a room, casualty extraction and squad tactical movements, among other important tasks related to urban combat operations.
A Soldier from 8th Territorial Unit of Lithuania's National Volunteer Forces, who wished to remain anonymous for operational security reasons, said the biggest value this training provides is to compare side by side how the two militaries work. "That exchange of information, about the SOPs, the different structures, would help us in the event of a war, to work with our NATO allies. It will help us avoid mistakes with communication," he said.
Pennsylvania's partnership with Lithuania has deepened and grown tremendously since 1993, building strong bonds of trust from the individual and platoon level to the highest levels of the military and government.
"Thank you for fostering this exceptional partnership and for the continued cooperation of the Pennsylvania National Guard in contributing to the education and combat readiness of our personnel," said Lithuanian Defense Minister Raimundas Karoblis in a recent meeting with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf. "With your support, we have become more trained and better prepared for challenges."
Karoblis also emphasized how the current security situation in the Baltic Region remains tense and requires a comprehensive deterrence posture in the region.
"U.S. troops on the ground is the best deterrence. The Pennsylvania National Guard is an important part of that U.S. presence," Karoblis said. "Training with the Pennsylvania National Guard on a regular basis helps to build the mutual understanding and interoperability to conduct missions together."
During their 24-year partnership, Pennsylvania and Lithuania have conducted more than 500 military and training exchanges, in addition to numerous joint deployments to Afghanistan as part of joint police operational mentor liaison teams and provincial reconstruction teams.