Since 10 February 2021, the 9th rotation of the multinational enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group Lithuania has been responsible for contributing to the security of the territory of the Alliance and of Lithuania. This requires the men and women of the 9th rotation to continuously undergo a demanding training and exercise regime which further increases common defence capabilities and demonstrates unity within NATO.
"Following a warm welcome by our Lithuanian partners, we now have attained combat readiness", says Lieutenant Colonel Sebastian Hebisch and adds: "Until mid-August 2021, approximately 600 multinational soldiers from Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and the Czech Republic will serve alongside the German soldiers. This is an unmistakable symbol not only of solidarity with our Lithuanian friends, but also of the unity and determination of NATO."
Preparing for high-intensity combat
Thanks to the integration of the enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group into its structure, the Lithuanian Iron Wolf Brigade has at its disposal a highly mobile armoured unit. This affords the Lithuanian mechanised infantry brigade flexibility in the conduct of combat operations and the possibility to create a clear main effort. Joint training activities and exercises contribute to a continuous harmonisation of tactics, techniques and procedures and to a deepening of knowledge of capabilities on both sides.
"The core of our training activities and exercises is to prepare for high-intensity combat. Our mission here is of a purely defensive nature. The focus of our activities, therefore, is on defensive and delay operations. In this context, combat in urban and forest terrain plays a crucial role", says the commander.
An early highlight of the presence in Lithuania was the German combat company's participation in exercise Crystal Arrow which took place in Latvia in March. The force-on-force exercise was supervised by an international team of evaluators and saw the German company – as part of the Latvian battle group under Canadian leadership – carry out combat activities typically associated with this type of operation.
Preparing for Iron Wolf: More than 60 additional vehicles, including the self-propelled howitzer Panzerhaubitze 2000, reinforce the exercise / Photo by Maurice Fateiger
Diversity is strength
This was followed by the traditional gunnery competition which saw main battle tank and infantry fighting vehicle crews vying for a trophy. Showcasing speed and precision, the Norwegian teams carried the day, repeating last year's win of the Iron Spear trophy for Enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group Latvia.
"We offer a diverse set of skills for possible collective defence operations in the Baltic states", says Lieutenant Colonel Hebisch and adds: "I consider these differences a strength of our defensive alliance. Acquainting ourselves with the capabilities of our partners is one goal of our common efforts here in Lithuania. Hence, our motto: 'strong – together'.
Now I eagerly look forward to the upcoming challenge, the highlight of the multinational training activities on the way to attaining the 'combat ready' status."
Reinforcements: 300 additional soldiers and 60 vehicles
The operational readiness of each rotation is assessed during an exercise. Currently a multinational team of evaluators is examining the 9th rotation's capabilities in the context of exercise Iron Wolf taking place at the Lithuanian Gaižiūnai military training area from 19 May to 31 May 2021. Lieutenant Colonel Hebisch explains: "During the certification exercise Iron Wolf, we – together with the Lithuanian Iron Wolf Brigade – showcase our operational readiness and interoperability as well as our operational capabilities."
The exercise taking place in the greater Rukla area is participated by approximately 4000 soldiers from different nations. They either form part of the exercise force or act as umpires in a supervisory capacity. In order to create realistic conditions for the certification exercise, more than 300 additional military personnel and more than 60 vehicles have been transported to Lithuania by air or rail during the past two weeks. Initially, German forces from 3 Reconnaissance Support Battalion in Lüneburg and 325 Artillery Training Support Battalion in Munster took part in combat exercises.
Close cooperation and mutual integration
Exercise Raging Leopard in June 2021 will be the final highlight for the 9th rotation. During the two-week exercise, Lithuanian forces and the soldiers of Enhanced Forward Presence Battle Groups Lithuania and Latvia will train together.
"Our contribution to collective defence and deterrence requires close cooperation and mutual integration of our forces. Joint training activities and exercises help us increase cohesion and provide an opportunity to exchange experience and learn from each other. During our mission, we experience every day what it means to be in NATO", concludes Lieutenant Colonel Hebisch.
NATO's unreserved solidarity
"The perception of security is invariably a subjective feeling influenced by personal experience, the history of one's country and the current political context. It, therefore, seems natural to me that Germany is committed to this NATO mission", explains the lieutenant colonel.
He concludes: "The multinational presence in the Baltic region in support of our Lithuanian friends is a powerful symbol of NATO's unreserved solidarity. I can assure you that the men and women of Enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group Lithuania – whether they are from Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands or Czech Republic – are doing an outstanding job. We will continue to make an essential contribution to the defence of the eastern flank of the Alliance in Lithuania."