Arrival of soldiers and materiel in Gaižiūnai
In spring, there are various exercises with the participation of soldiers of enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group Lithuania; for this purpose, they need several Marder 1A3 infantry fighting vehicles. In Germany, the vehicles are carefully prepared and loaded for their long railroad transport. They are then received in Lithuania by the soldiers of the German combat company about four days later. After being briefed by the loading officer, platoon leader Captain Stefan B. takes the floor. “Now get to the vehicles and prepare for unloading. Begin when the first vehicles are ready.”
Checks of the arriving vehicles
Lithuania often has icy temperatures. It is possible that chock blocks are frozen in place. A firm kick or a crowbar solves this problem. The first glance reveals to the driver that the running gear was not damaged during the long haul. He climbs on the engine compartment cover and takes out a huge square-head screwdriver from a lateral storage compartment, which he uses to unlock and open the driver’s hatch. Everything is in its proper place and a few minutes later his squad leader gives the signal to start the engine. A soldier turns the ignition key, preheats the engine twice and gets the infantry fighting vehicle running. A monotonous rumble fills the entire railway station compound. Then the time has come: The first infantry fighting vehicle is being guided off the train car by a ground guide.
March column to the barracks
This procedure only works if the interplay between ground guide and driver is flawless. One after another, the infantry fighting vehicles roll of the loading ramp without any trouble: The vehicles now have Lithuanian soil underneath their tracks.
At the end of the train station compound, a column begins to form. While the engines are warming up, the slippery train station exit ramp is filled with loose snow and chunks of sand. This is supposed to provide the track shoes with more traction on the icy road.
After that, the vehicle commanders gather up around Captain Stefan B.: “The unloading process is finished. After this, mount the vehicles and report readiness to move. Questions?” He looks around: “Mount!” The infantry fighting vehicles start moving and, after a short march, reach the gate of the barracks near Rukla.
To the firing range: zeroing the vehicle rapid-fire weapon system
On the next morning, the infantry fighting vehicles make their way to the training area in heavy snowfall. When the roar of their heavy tank engines comes within earshot, the Marder infantry fighting vehicles are already in sight. After entering the firing range, the crews dismount and gather for the first line-up. Captain Stefan B. welcomes the soldiers, details them into working groups and briefs them about the venue. “Ammunition to be received at the point of issue starting now. Second line-up at 08.30 hrs! Fall out to working areas as ordered;” orders the officer in charge.
Preparation of ammunition and primary weapon system
The gunners prepare the primary weapon systems. The rest of the crews go and receive the ammunition. Belts for the vehicle rapid-fire weapon system are laid out on the opened rear hatch and meticulously realigned with the ammunition belt realignment device. “This helps to prevent malfunctions of the weapon systems during the ammunition loading process in the turret and in the double belt feed mechanism,” the gunner explains.
While he loads the ammunition into the turret and checks if it properly fits in the path of the bolt, the ammunition belts for the machine gun are being put together on the rear hatch. The green-red flag is attached to the vehicle so that the safety officer can recognize the new loading condition of the vehicle. The firing can commence. Upon order, the infantry fighting vehicle moves into its fighting position.
“Hit, target centre”
Pointing the cross hairs of the weapon sight at the zeroing target 800 metres away, the gunner presses the trigger of his Mk 20 automatic cannon. The shot is fired with ear-shattering noise and the projectile just barely misses the centre of the target.
“Hit, low right! Two mils left and three mils up,” the commander comments after observing the hit. The gunner readjusts the weapon sight and aims at the centre of the zeroing target once more.
“Fire!” orders the commander. Another shot is fired. “Hit, target centre!” is heard from the radio with audible satisfaction.
After successful completion of all preparatory steps, the materiel has been tested and the soldiers are well prepared for the upcoming exercises.