Lithuanian, Polish, and U.S. Special Operations Forces assembled on Sept. 21 for the arrival of President Dalia Grybauskaite of Lithuania, Lithuanian Minister of National Defense Rasa Jukneviciene, U.S. Ambassador to Lithuania Anne E. Derse, Lithuanian Chief of Defense Maj. Gen. Arvydas Pocius, leading officials of the Ministry of National Defense and Lithuanian Armed Forces, as well as other distinguished guests who visited the Dragunu Batalionas and USS Mount Whitney.
During their visit, honorary guests were given a tour of the Dragunu Batalionas in Klaipeda, Lithuania, where they interacted and had dinner alongside Lithuanian, Polish, and United States SOF personnel. After the tour, guests viewed static military displays and were then taken by helicopter to the USS Mount Whitney, command ship for the U.S. Navy's 6th Fleet, on the Baltic Sea.
The visit was in support of Jackal Stone 2010, a special operations exercise scheduled from Sept. 7-27 in various locations throughout both Lithuania and Poland, featuring participation from seven nations to include Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, the United States, and Ukraine.
The exercise is designed to build Special Operations Forces capacity, the capabilities of current and future partner nations, and to promote cooperation and interoperability between the participating forces.
Within the tour, guests were updated on the successes of the exercise, as well as the advances in defense capabilities being made for the seven participating countries.
President Grybauskaite spoke on the impact of the exercise to SOF’s communication, as well as to the defense of participating countries.
“Special Operations Forces are very experienced, but still need coordination,” Grybauskaite said. “Our troops that are going and have gone to Afghanistan can share their experiences here with other nations. Participating countries here are coming up with real defense plans, which makes this exercise very important.”
Ambassador Derse further commented on the importance of communication, and how it plays a crucial role to partner nations.
“Working with six other countries to develop skills, interoperability, and most importantly that I’ve found here; to develop communications is essential,” Derse said. “The ability to communicate quickly and understand each other is one of this exercise’s main benefits.”
Lt. Col David B. Millner, U.S. Defense and Army Attaché, further spoke on the magnitude of building communication and interoperability during the exercise, and how the Jackal Stone exercise offers members of special operations forces the ability to train in a safe environment.
“The guys participating are the same guys that are doing the real deal in Afghanistan,” Millner said. “This exercise gives them a chance to practice in an environment where mistakes are not punished the same way. It gives us all the chance to work out the bugs, increase our interoperability, and to get better for the fight across the world.”
With the exercise in full effect, Pocius recalled the progress made over the years in his native region of Lithuania, and how the Jackal Stone exercise has played a crucial role to all participating nations over the years.
“As a man who was born in Klaipeda, 20 years ago this seemed like a dream,” Pocius said. “We were always looking out to the west, waiting for when we would be together with the western countries. Now it’s happened. Being together, we are strong…with us working shoulder to shoulder in this exercise, it will help us to do so in the air, at sea, on land, and wherever we are.”