By Army Spc. Andrew McNeil, 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
RUKLA, Lithuania -- Army paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne Division deployed here to participate in an interoperability/readiness exercise with NATO allies and other U.S. partners.
Elements of the division flew non-stop aboard a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft from their home at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to Lithuania and Latvia, where they parachuted into their respective drop zones during the early morning hours, June 9.
“We flew over 7,000 kilometers from our location in North Carolina, performed one aerial refuel and then dropped in here [Lithuania] with enough combat power and communications to reach back to our home station and partner nations,” said Army Lt. Col. Scott Pence, the commander of the jump near Rukla, Lithuania.
Pence and other members of the division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team jumped as part of the annual Swift Response training exercise.
Swift Response 18 featured airborne forces from nine nations, including Israel, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. The exercise is scheduled to run June 7-15.
“By working with our NATO allies and partner nations, we are able to maintain and strengthen our interoperability,” Pence said. “Every time we do an exercise like this and work with the Lithuanians, the Polish or Latvians, we are able to test our communication systems, our signals and also our battle tactics, techniques and procedures.”
After jumping in, the soldiers quickly regrouped and began securing the airfield. As part of the exercise, Lithuanian soldiers played the role of opposition forces, creating a more-realistic training scenario and further validating the division’s capabilities as a global response force.
“This is a readiness exercise,” said Army 1st Lt. Nathaniel Volk, with the 307th Engineer Battalion.
The 82nd Airborne Division is a rapid-deployment force, which means that with 18 hours’ notice, they will strategically plan, deploy and secure main objectives. Swift Response 18 allowed the participating units to train according to their mission focus.
This exercise demonstrates the division’s ability to respond rapidly, and its resolve to assist its NATO allies and partners, Volk said.
“I am very motivated,” said Army Pvt. Daniel Guevara, with the 1st Battalion, 508th Infantry Regiment. “This is the whole purpose of our training: to show our allies our readiness and show our command we are ready to go anytime, anywhere.”
According to a U.S. Army Europe statement, Swift Response 18 promotes readiness of participating units, while strengthening U.S. ally and partner capabilities and fostering trust. The combined training opportunities that it provides greatly improves interoperability among participating NATO allies and key regional partners.