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News | June 4, 2022

Pa. National Guard senior leaders visit Lithuania

By Brad Rhen Pennsylvania National Guard

Pennsylvania National Guard senior leaders visited Lithuania recently to meet with Lithuanian military leaders and visit Pennsylvania National Guard members who were deployed there.

Pennsylvania Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Mark Schindler and Senior Enlisted Leader Command Sgt. Maj. Jon Worley visited May 17 to 21.

Deputy Adjutant General-Air Brig. Gen. Michael Regan Jr. and Chief Master Sergeant Paul Frisco Jr., State Command Chief – Air, were joined by the commanders and senior enlisted leaders from each of Pennsylvania’s three air wings for a visit May 22 to 24.

The purpose of the visits was to meet with Lithuanian military leaders and reaffirm Pennsylvania’s commitment to its partnership with Lithuania. The Pennsylvania National Guard has partnered with Lithuania since 1993 through the National Guard’s State Partnership Program.

Additionally, the visits coincided with the deployment of more than 450 Pa. National Guard members to Lithuania in support of Defender Europe 22, NATO exercise Flaming Thunder and other engagements, so the leaders took time to visit the deployed service members.

During his visit, Schindler met with Lithuanian Minister of National Defense Arvydas Anusauskas; Vice-Minister of National Defense, Margiris Aubeckevicius; Lt. Gen. Valdemaras Rupsys, Chief of Defense of the Lithuanian Armed Forces; and Brig. Gen. Raimundas Vaiksnoras, commander of the Lithuanian Land Forces.

Schindler also met with Ambassador Robert Gilchrist, the U.S. ambassador to Lithuania.

“The State Partnership Program represents Pennsylvania's commitment to regional security in the Baltics with our partner Lithuania,” Schindler said. “I was proud to visit and thank over 450 Pennsylvania National Guard Soldiers and Airmen building readiness with our allied partners in Pabrade, Lithuania, during Exercise Flaming Thunder. I also met with Lithuanian civilian and military senior leaders to discuss additional opportunities for enhancing our partnership, demonstrating our steadfast commitment, and increasing our collective readiness.”

Regan noted that the trip was the first Pennsylvania Air Guard in-person leadership engagement in Lithuania since 2019.

“The visit was a tremendous success and important to renewing existing relationships and establishing new connections with our Lithuanian Air Force partners while briefing on respective capabilities, personnel and missions,” Regan said.

The Air Guard group visited the Kazlu Rūda Range, which was enlarged in 2018 by the Pennsylvania Air National Guard’s 201st RED HORSE Squadron. While there, A-10 Warthogs from the Maryland Air National Guard were training and conducting bombing and gun runs accompanied by Spanish F-18 fighters. The F-18s are part of NATO’s Baltic Air Policing Mission and currently stationed at Lithuania’s Šiauliai Air Base, which the group also visited.

The group’s visit concluded by visiting 201st RED HORSE Squadron personnel who were beginning construction of a pre-engineered building in Klaipėda for use by Lithuania’s Special Operations Forces.

“Our work and cooperation with our Lithuanian partners is a great source of pride for the Airmen and Soldiers of the Pennsylvania National Guard and the interactions on this week-long visit were mutually beneficial to fostering plans for future engagements and training deployments which are critical to continuing to strengthen our robust partnership of almost 30 years,” Regan said.

For Worley, it was his first trip to Lithuania as the Pennsylvania National Guard’s senior enlisted leader. While there, he met with Command Sgt. Maj. Remigijus Katinas, Lithuanian Armed Forces senior enlisted leader, and Command Sgt. Maj. Darius Masiulis, Lithuanian Land Force command sergeant major.

“They are very cordial and accommodating,” Worley said. “It was truly like meeting with old friends though it was my first time there. It shows the maturity of our over 29 years of cooperation.

“My discussions with Sergeant Major Katinas and Sergeant Major Masiulis revealed the numerous similarities and challenges in dealing with things like training, stationing and equipping,” Worley added. “Though we are over 4,000 miles apart, we are very similar with the issues we face.”

Since the Pennsylania National Guard and Lithuania began their partnership in 1993, the two sides have taken part in over 730 engagements.