US troops keep training in Lithuania

More than 500 U.S. soldiers and dozens of tanks and heavy fighting vehicles are deployed to Lithuania to bulk up NATO’s eastern flank. US Army armored cavalry troops exercised in Lithuania after training alongside NATO Allies for several months.

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U.S. soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 9th Cavalry Regiment from Fort Hood, Texas, and multinational partner forces engage in the first day of a Combined Arms Live-Fire Exercise (CALFEX) in Pabrade, Lithuania on Feb. 11, 2020 (Picture source: U.S. Army/Maj. Stephanie Thomas)

The troops are deployed as part of U.S. Army Europe’s Atlantic Resolve campaign, which involves rotating hundreds of troops to locations up and down Eastern Europe in an effort to deter Russian aggression in the region. The looming arrival of U.S. forces had been welcomed by Lithuanian officials, who have lobbied for more frequent and longer American troop rotations since Atlantic Resolve began in the wake of Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014: “We have sought a larger, long-term U.S. military involvement in Lithuania and the region consistently and patiently,” Defense Minister Raimundas Karoblis said in a statement. “Therefore the deployment of the U.S. Army battalion for a longer period of time is good and awaited news and a result of our efforts and investment.”

US Army troops have been deployed to Lithuania for Exercise Saber Winter, a combined live-fire drill involving armored units. The troops, part of 1st Armored Battalion, 9th Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, were deployed to Lithuania in autumn 2019 to demonstrate solidarity and improve interoperability with NATO Allies. The unit is part of a broader brigade rotation into Europe involving the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, which deployed in October 2019. Ben Hodges, the former commander of US Army forces in Europe, said the US deployment was a "manifestation of American commitment to continued deterrence along NATO's eastern flank", at the time when US was pulling American troops out of Syria and abandoning its Kurdish allies. "Nobody, including the Russians, should be confused by the Americans' commitment to NATO despite what was I think a mistake of pulling out of Syria," Hodges said.

The 9th Cavalry brought 30 M1A2 Abrams tanks, 25 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles and 70 wheeled vehicles that were based out of a training area in Pabrade, a small town near the country’s border with Belarus.

In March 2020, more troops from the 1st Cavalry Division will arrive in Europe for Exercise DEFENDER-Europe 20, the largest deployment of US forces to Europe in 25 years. Footage includes shots of armored vehicles maneuvering around Pabradė Training Area in Lithuania, and interviews with US Army officers and the US Ambassador to Lithuania.