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News | May 16, 2023

Pa. Guard Soldiers discuss reconnaissance, security operations with SPP partner Lithuania

By Brad Rhen

A team of Pennsylvania National Guard Soldiers recently visited Lithuania where they conducted several engagements with their counterparts from the Lithuanian Armed Forces.

Soldiers from 1st Squadron, 104th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team participated in a reconnaissance and security operations class, while Soldiers from the Fort Indiantown Gap Training Center assisted the Lithuanians in developing a new training area.

“Events such as these two further strengthen the bond between Lithuania and Pennsylvania and continue to build trust between our organizations,” said Lt. Col. Gordon Kinneer, commander, 1-104th Cav.

Kinneer said the two events were combined because he and Capt. Michael Shea, the C Troop, 1-104th Cavalry commander, both work full-time at Fort Indiantown Gap and could assist with both events. Kinneer is the director of plans, operations, training and security at Fort Indiantown Gap, and Shea is the range management authority.

“I think it is very telling that the Lithuanian Land Forces came to their state partner first to seek out advisors for both the recon and security operations seminar and seek out implementation guidance as they continue to improve their military infrastructure,” Kinneer said. “There are a plethora of U.S. agencies they could have gone to first, agencies that are in the region and on the continent, yet they sought out their 30-year partners, Pennsylvania, first.”

The reconnaissance and security operations class took place at the Uhlan Battalion headquarters in Alytus, Lithuania. The class was part of a series military-to-military engagements with the Lithuanian Land Forces during the weeklong visit.

The Uhlan Battalion is one of the Lithuanian Army's premier mechanized forces. It recently fielded the Vilkas infantry fighting vehicle platform.

In addition to Kinneer and Shea, the engagement was attended by Maj. Rich Fowler, 1-104th Cav. executive officer, and 1st Sgt. Rich Scaricaciottoli, B Troop, 1-104th Cav. first sergeant.

The training event was presented to Lt. Col. Aurelijus Vrubliauskas, Uhlan Battalion commander, his chief of staff and other primary staff officers, company commanders and platoon leaders.

Also during the visit, Shea, along with Master Sgt. Jeremy Schlegel and Sgt. 1st Class James Rudershausen, both from the Fort Indiantown Gap Training Center, took part in a military-to-military exchange event focused on assistance to the Lithuanian Training and Doctrine Command.

The team focused their efforts in assisting the Lithuanians in their development of a new training area near the village of Rudninkai. One of the key features of the new Rudninkai Training Area will be a multi-purpose range complex to allow Lithuanian Land Forces to conduct gunnery for the Vilkas platform.

Lithuania is seeking to expand its range and training area capabilities to provide additional training opportunities for NATO partners and its own military forces.

“Lithuanian TRADOC is very eager to learn best practices from Fort Indiantown Gap so they can implement them at their new training center,” Shea said.

Additionally, Shea said, the team provided overviews of numerous facilities and training areas on Fort Indiantown Gap for use at the Rudninkai and Pabrade Training Complexes.

“I think their new training center in Rudninkai will provide great opportunities for the Lithuanian military to improve its readiness and capabilities,” Shea said. “I look forward to assisting our partners in their efforts to build the premier training area in region.”

The Pennsylvania National Guard and Lithuania have partnered through the National Guard’s State Partnership Program since 1993. Since the partnership began, the two sides have taken part in over 800 security cooperation engagements, including senior leader engagements, subject matter expert exchanges, familiarization visits and cooperative training and exercises.

“We are always ready to support any ask from our partners and look forward to further assist Lithuania in their development in all realms; military, civilian and governmental,” Kinneer said.