NEWS | June 10, 2011

Georgia Guard mentors Latvian Army in Operation Summer Shield

By 1st Lt. William Carraway, U.S. Army Georgia National Guard

ADAZI, Latvia - Twenty-five Soldiers of the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Georgia Army National Guard, led by the 2nd Battalion, 121st Infantry, and supplemented with additional skilled Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 121st Infantry, and 1st Squadron, 108th Reconnaissance Surveillance Target Acquisition, just spent two weeks in Latvia supporting Operation Summer Shield VIII - an annual joint U.S.-Latvian training exercise.

The Georgia mentors trained 166 Latvian soldiers in the Military Decision Making Process, Tactical Operation Center operations, fusion cell/targeting procedures, intelligence preparation of the battlefield, mortar and machine gun theory, sniper implementation, long range reconnaissance and call for fire.

While embedded with their mentoring sections, the Georgia Guard members provided two days of classroom and field instruction followed by three days of mission receipt and planning. The final phase of Operation Summer Shield was a five-day mission to test the capabilities of the long range reconnaissance and sniper teams along with the battle tracking skills of the Latvian headquarters section.

Army Capt. Brian Cardinali said, "In the scenario, long range reconnaissance patrol teams were inserted by an Mi-17 helicopter as far as 50 kilometers from their surveillance objectives. Augmented by sniper teams, the reconnaissance elements maneuvered to their objectives, reported intelligence to the TOC, conducted actions on the objectives and successfully exfiltrated without being compromised."

In coordination with these field maneuvers, the Latvian composite battalion staff used collected reconnaissance reports along with scenario-driven intelligence to put the staff through the MDMP process with a full battalion operations order production for future operations.

The event culminated with multiple live-fire exercises involving mortars, snipers and machine gun fire.

In previous years, the Michigan National Guard has been the U.S. proponent for the exercise.

However, due to recent deployments, the Michigan Guard was not able to support this element of its State Partnership Program and, instead, looked to the state of Georgia for assistance. The Soldiers of 2nd Battalion were quick to live up to their battalion motto: "It shall be done."

"To my knowledge, this is the first time that Guard units from one state have stepped in to assist another state in completing its overseas mission requirements," said Lt. Col. Eric Pless, Bilateral Affairs Officer for U.S. European Command, Latvia.

"Not only were Georgia's actions unprecedented, the level of training they've provided to the Latvian Army has been as well," said Maj. Vents Lapsenbergs, Commander of the 2nd Latvian Battalion. "Our officers [battalion and brigade staff] received a far higher level of training in the past two weeks than in their entire service academy experience."

As the training concluded, the Latvian Army - being good hosts - treated their new Georgia Friends to the splendor of Riga, Latvia's capital city.

The Soldiers toured the 13th century castle of Turaida, visited the Soviet occupation museum, and joined their Latvian counterparts for an open fire cookout in the statue park of Sigulda.

Additionally, some Soldiers were able to participate in the Riga Marathon, which took place along the cobblestone streets of downtown Riga.

"I enjoyed working and training with the Latvian Army - so much so, in fact, that I joked about joining them," said Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Hern, a reconnaissance mentor with the 1-121st Infantry.

During closing ceremonies, the U.S. and Latvian Soldiers exchanged gifts. Army Lt. Col. Alan Alexander, commander of 2-121st Infantry, and Army Command Sgt. Maj. Samuel McCord presented key Latvian Leaders with tomahawks - symbols of the Warrior Battalion - also known as the "Macon Volunteers."

The Georgia Soldiers were in turn presented certificates of appreciation and coins from the Land Force Infantry Brigade, 1st Latvian Battalion, commanded by Maj. Velts Āboliņš.

Alexander expressed the unanimous sentiments of the Georgia Soldiers: "We stand ready to assist (the Latvian Army) with any future training requests, and we would be honored to be called to train again alongside these fine Soldiers."