The biggest military international training that took place in the Baltic States this year „Baltic Eagle 09" ( Adaži Military Area, Latvia, June 2 - 17) proved joint Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian Baltic Battalion ready for duty in the NATO Response Force, rotation 14 (NRF-14). The evaluation in compliance with NATO requirements was proceeded by an international commission under supervision of representatives of NATO commands.
Lithuanian military have been performing duty in NRF since 2005. However, participation of Lithuanian Armed Forces in the trilateral Baltic Battalion BALTBAT is the biggest Lithuania's contribution to NRF ever since 2005.
Lithuania has sent over 500 soldiers to the Battalion (the total number of personnel in the BALTBAT is around 800) with Lithuanians also holding leading positions in the unit.
Establishment of BALTBAT
During a meeting in Panevėžys, Lithuania in January of 2007, Baltic Defence Ministers agreed to jointly contribute a trilateral battalion-sized military unit to the NATO Response Force (NRF-14) in the first half of 2010. Each state committed to send a company to the joint Battalion.
In September of the same year a document officially establishing the Baltic Battalion was approved.
The „Iron Wolf" Brigade selected to delegate its troops to NRF began a marathon of training for responsible tasks. Combat training of the Baltic Battalion was started in 2008. During the time the Brigade and the Battalion conducted around 20 exercises and training sessions at various levels of units, Baltic States also trained smaller units and and individual soldiers at national level. One of the most challenging trials for Lithuanian troops in BALTBAT was the „Strong Shield 2008" exercise held in autumn 2008. In spring of 2009 all the three countries organised evaluative exercise of combat readiness of BALTBAT units and national level: participants were recognised as ready to fulfil the tasks in their scope. Evaluation exercise „Baltic Eagle 2009" was the first time all the Baltic Battalion with all equipment jointly appeared on the ground, conducted tasks of planning and conducted operations following the exercise scenario. It was the first exercise of such scope (with around 1100 of participating personnel) organised under the responsibility of the Motorised Infantry Brigade „Iron Wolf" outside the territory of Lithuania. Commander MIB „Iron Wolf" Col. V. Tamošaitis was the conductor of the exercise. Participants trained according to a scenario imitating deployment to a conflict region, and fulfilment of a wide range of operations: march to the region of assembly, tasks of offensive and defensive character.
NATO Response Force
The decision of creating NATO Response Force was passed in the Prague NATO Summit in 2002. With the first steps of implementing NRF concept made in 2003, the first operational capacities were reached in 2005. Establishment of NRF was the initial step in the creation of a new NATO capable of efficient and timely response to a wide range of threats. NATO Response Force is characterised by integrated and totally interoperable land, air and naval capabilities led by a unified military command. In case of necessity NRF is easily and quickly deployable to any site in the world to defend security of the Alliance. NRF is capable of conducting all types of missions from high-intensity combat actions in the enemy's territory, counter-terrorist and crisis management actions to tasks of humanitarian or citizen evacuation. Establishment of NRF does not entail that it is going to be the only operational capabilities of NATO; however, it will be the first force deployed into the theatre of NATO operation due to its high readiness level (re-deployment to the theatre period from 5 to 30 days) with supporting forces of the allies coming afterwards.
Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania sustained participation of Lithuania in NRF-14 on 20 January 2005. Water Purification Unit of the Lithuanian Armed Forces (based on water purification personnel of the Grand Duke of Lithuania Vytenis General Support Logistics Battalion stationed in Marijampolė) was ready to conduct NATO operations on 14 of January of the same year. Lithuania made its first contribution to NRF with the forth cycle of force. By the time NRF already had the strength of 17 000 soldiers and could be sent to conduct any type of operation.
Lithuania's engagements in NRF
Water Purification Unit represented Lithuanian Armed Forces in the pioneer operation of NRF. Pakistan was hit by an especially strong earthquake on October 8 and Government of the Country turned to NATO for help for the victims of the disaster. Despite the formally finished standby period in NRF Lithuanian Water Purification Unit deployed into the hit province of Arja within 15 days. The Unit installed itself in Bagh town assisted by Polish engineers and immediately began water purification jobs in the Mahl River. Purified water was then provided for local inhabitants, hospital of the Dutch armed forces, mountain engineers of the UK. The mission lasted for 3 months, the resulting productivity of the Lithuanian Water Purification Unit amounted to 363 000 litres of purified water.
One of the squadrons of the Special Operations Unit „Aitvaras-05" started its standby in NRF-5 in July 2005. In the first half of 2006 it was replaced „Aitvaras-06" in NRF-6. After a pause of NRF-7 and NRF-8 Lithuania delegated one mine hunter of the Lithuanian Naval Force to NRF-9, and continued with the SOU (Special Operations Unit) Squadron and water purification specialists in NRF-10 from January 2008. Personnel of Lithuanian Air Force joined NRF-11, and LNF mine hunter is intended for NRF-13.
Military forces that Lithuania sends to the NATO Response Force is a vital contribution in fulfilling commitments to the Alliance and to the efforts of strengthening the organisation's forces as well.