Lithuanians' service protecting a WFP ship in the Indian Ocean was outstanding

Lithuanians' service protecting a WFP ship in the Indian Ocean was outstanding

On January 7 the National Defence System Medals for Deployment to International Missions were bestowed on the 5th rotation of the Autonomous Vessel Protection Detachment (AVPD) at a homecoming ceremony in Klaipėda after deployment to the EU NAVFOR Somalia Operation ATALANTA off the Somali coast. The Lithuanian soldiers were guarding a World Food Programme-chartered ship taking food assistance to the Somali people during the deployment. The homecoming ceremony was attended by Head of the Representation of the European Commission in Lithuania Arnoldas Pranckevičius, Commander of the Lithuanian Navy Rear Adm (lower half) Arūnas Mockus, Commander of the MD Jonas Basanavičius Military Medical Service Lt Col Jolita Sesartienė, families of the soldiers, and other guests.

"This international operation is one of the success stories of the European Union that has disrupted the activities of Somali pirates. Lithuania is demonstrating solidarity with other EU member states and has been not only a consumer but also a provide for a rather long time already," A. Pranckevičius said about the importance of the EU NAVFOR Somalia Operation ATALANTA at the ceremony. Commanders of the Lithuanian Navy and the AVPD thanked the military families for the support and belief in the Lithuanian Armed Forces while staying at home in Lithuania. Lt (Navy) Julius Parnarauskas underscored that it was not only a duty but also an honour to take part in the operation. The operational ATALANTA headquarters not only presented EU medals to the Lithuanian military personnel but also gave an assessment "outstanding" for their service.

The detachment of 12, formed mainly by the Lithuanian Navy and trained specifically for the deployment, spent over 120 days in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Somalia guarding a WFP vessel carrying humanitarian aid. The World Food Programme aid is vital, especially for the children of Somalia who are one of the most vulnerable parts of the society in the war-torn country. 13 thousand tonnes of food assistance were delivered to different ports in Somalia under the guard of the 5th Lithuanian AVPD. The Lithuanian AVPD handed over the mission to Serbian colleagues on December 26.

The Lithuanian Armed Forces contributed the total of four AVPDs and one Lithuanian Navy officer serving in an operational headquarters aboard an ATALANTA ship in 2013-2018. Lithuania will continue contributing to the operation: the officer continues serving at the operational headquarters and the next AVPD will be dispatched by the end of the year.

Lithuania's contribution to the EU-led international operations helps fighting international crises and strengthens the EU Common Security and Defence Policy. Lithuania has been taking part in Operation ATALANTA since 2011. Currently one Lithuanian staff officer is assigned the operational headquarters in Rota, Spain. During the operation logistical provision for the AVPD troops was arranged and coordinated by two National Support Element soldiers of the Lithuanian Armed Forces Logistical Support Command.

The EU Naval Force- Operation ATALANTA was launched in 2008 in response to the growing numbers of piracy cases off the coast of Somalia. Military vessels taking part in the operation provide escort to the WFP vessels transporting aid to the people of Somalia, deter and seize pirates and armed robbers in the area of operation in the Gulf of Aden and Somalian waters and support other EU international operations and organisations enhancing maritime safety and capabilities in the region. The EU NAVFOR Somalia Operation ATALANTA includes military personnel, vessels and aircraft from EU member and partner countries.

In 2020-2021 Lithuanian soldiers will be deployed to 11 international missions and operations. Lithuanians will continue service in 10 of the ongoing operations and join one more - international maritime security operation in the Straight of Hurmuz. Lithuania continues to prioritizes participation in NATO, NATO coalitions and EU-led international operations, maintains Lithuanian contribution to the United Nations-led operation in Mali, and the national Military Training Operation in Ukraine. Approximately 160 Lithuanian soldiers are planned to take part in international operations over next two years.


Information credits: Lithuanian Navy

Photo credits: AVPD, Lithuanian Navy