7th rotation of the NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battalion Battle Group begins service in Lithuania

7th rotation of the NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battalion Battle Group begins service in...

On February 6 a handover-takeover ceremony of command and personnel of the NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battalion Battle Group (eFP BG) took place at the Lithuanian Great Hetman Jonušas Radvila Training Regiment in Rukla (Jonava region). Lieutenant Colonel Axel Niemann (German Armed Forces) assumed the command of the 7th rotation of the NATO eFP BG. Over 8 thousand troops from 9 NATO allies have already rotated through the multinational unit that sees its third year in Lithuania.

"The NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battalion Battle Group is very much more than a multinational unit on a critical mission. It is a concrete and embodied proof of our allies' assurances and cooperation. An effective deterrence and defence at the eastern borders of NATO is a common commitment of all of us," Minister of National Defence Raimundas Karoblis said on February 6.

The NATO eFP BG is integrated into the Mechanized Infantry Brigade Iron Wolf of the Lithuanian Armed Forces. The 1.2 thousand-strong 7th rotation is manned by the Netherlands, Norway, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Luxembourg, and Iceland, aside from Germany which has deployed the 371st Mechanized Infantry Battalion from Marienberg.

All of the eFP personnel lined up for the changeover ceremony in Rukla. The event was also attended Ambassador of Germany in Lithuania HE Matthias Sonn, Chief of Defence of Lithuania Lieutenant General Valdemaras Rupšys, Deputy Inspector General of the Bundeswehr Vice Admiral Joachim Rühle, other high representatives of the Lithuanian and the German Armed Forces, and other guests.

Outgoing eFP Commander Lieutenant Colonel Rouven Habel summed up the achievements of the unit before passing on the combat flag to the incoming rotation . "It has been an honor and joy to serve with you as your commander at our colleagues Lithuanians' in an international setting. However, I will add: do not relax too much back home and put your new excellent skills to work," he said. The officer also called Exercise Iron Wolf of the Iron Wolf Brigade that had taken place in the autumn of 2019 the culmination of the intensive stay in Lithuania. "It really was the best day for the whole Battle Group. We and all of the soldiers achieved our goal - excellent readiness, and we had NATO certification as a proof," Lt Col R. Habel said.

Lt Col Niemann and his incoming rotation have plenty of training and exercise ahead of them in Lithuania. The 7th rotation will culminate with the U.S.-led Exercise Defender Europe 2020 in early summer. Certification Exercise Saber Strike 20 will also run in mid-May - the NATO eFP BG will be required to prove it is ready to defend the country and the Alliance.

The multinational Battle Group comprises three combat companies, one artillery battery, a support and a logistical company, also, military police and military medics. The unit operates 500 vehicles, including armored infantry fighting vehicles, battle tanks, wheeled armored vehicles, armored personnel carriers , howitzers, partly armored trucks.

Deployment of the NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battalion Battle Group in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Poland was a historical decision, to enhance allied presence as of 2017 by deploying battalion-sized NATO eFP Battle Groups, taken by the NATO Heads of State and Government in July 2016. The capabilities are primarily a response to the Russian military aggression in Ukraine, and increase of Russia's military potential and show or force in the region. The NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battalion Battle Group guarantees high-level readiness and interoperability.

Soldiers of Germany, the framework nation, deployed in Lithuania with equipment and weaponry first in January 2017. Later they were joined by forces, equipment and weaponry from Belgium, Croatia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, France.

Photo credits: Alfredas Pliadis