On September 22 Minister of National Defence Raimundas Karoblis and Ambassador of the United States to Lithuania HE Robert S. Gilchrist visited the Gen S.Žukauskas Training Area in Pabradė (Švenčionys region) to greet the new rotation of U.S. soldiers deployed to Lithuania, met with the 2nd Brigade, 69th Regiment, 2nd Battalion Commander Lt Col George Bolton Jr., and viewed and tried the Abrams tanks and Bradley armoured fighting vehicles brought by the U.S forces.
“Defence cooperation between Lithuania and the United States remains particularly strong and intense, and deployment of a new rotation of the U.S. Battalion affirms again the strength of the Lithuanian-U.S. defence cooperation. U.S., as well as NATO, presence is a critical factor for our security,” Minister of National Defence Raimundas Karoblis said.
In his turn, Ambassador of the U.S. expressed the delight that he was able to welcome back th U.S. Army rotational troops to the Lithuanian Armed Forces training area in Pabradė. “I want to confirm, that these exercises are a pre-planned training event, not in response to any situational changes in the region. As the U.S. Secretary of the Army noted on his visit in July, Lithuania is a great location to conduct challenging training, build interoperability with our Allies, and increase our readiness within the region,” Ambassador said.
Ambassador also thanked the Lithuanian Armed Forces and the Lithuanian society for being a gracious host. “We also thank them for the major investments in defense modernization and continued training area improvements that allow realistic training. The U.S. looks forward to continued rotational presence in Lithuania and the Baltic region,” he said.
The U.S. soldiers are deployed to Lithuania for several weeks of training. They arrived in early September. The U.S. forces deploy as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve of the U.S. Army in the eastern part of the Alliance. This rotation deployment has been pre-planned, not related to any recent developments in the region. It is reassurance about the collective defence commitments to NATO allies concerning European security following the aggressive Russian actions in Ukraine. U.S. forces have been rotating in to train in the Baltic States and Eastern Europe since spring 2014.
The 2nd Brigade, 69th Regiment, 2nd Battalion is planned to rotate out and to be replaced by next heavy U.S. battalion in November, the new rotation will stay until the end of June.
Lithuania seeks to ensure that allied forces are able to train effectively, to maintain readiness, and to serve as a deterrence in Lithuania, therefore national defence budget is used to expand military training areas and improve their infrastructure. Additional investments are made to improve military mobility, for instance, a new railhead of Pažeimenė railway line near the Pabradė Training Area was unveiled this spring to facilitate deployment of NATO allies’ equipment and weaponry to Lithuania.
The U.S. has also invested into military installations in Lithuanian training areas: several projects have been completed in Pabradė, Rukla, and Kazlų Rūda, such as marksman and sniper, light infantry and heavy machine-gun, and infantry fighting vehicle ranges, maintenance depot, and other training and maintenance infrastructure.