The Lithuanian Armed Forces is preparing for international Exercise Defender-Europe 2020 to take place in April-May next year. Preparations and conduct of the strategic exercise is and will be led by the United States European Command (EUCOM).
In October and November earlier this year representatives of the Defence Staff and CIMIC specialists of the National Defence Volunteer Force signed agreements with farmers and agricultural companies in Marijampolė and Lazdijai regional municipalities to use private territories in their possession for the needs of Defender-Europe 2020.
"We faced significant challenges when planning the exercise in non-military territories, specifically, in Suvalkija, because the active phase which will take only three days will take place on private land of agricultural use covering 24 thousand hectares in total. Therefore we have this challenge of negotiating with civilian residents about all the territories we need, that includes more than 100 persons and a part of legal entities, over 3 thousand different lots according to cadastral data," officer of the Defence Staff Major Tadas Černiauskas said.
According to the officer, 8 months in after the start of negotiations with all land managers, good results have been achieved concerning preparations for the exercise. Success has been granted by the people's goodwill, public spirit and wish to contribute to Lithuania's defence.
"I particularly liked the optimistic approach of one farmer, he said "just tell me where and we will dig so many anti-tank trenches overnight that no tank will pass." We are particularly grateful to major agricultural companies - AUGA Group AB, Padovinio ŽUB, and Šešupės ūkis UAB - that made the preparation significantly easier, roughly 60% of the territories needed for the exercise were approved with their help. We were consulting with specialists of Marijampolė, Lazdijai, Kalvarijos town councils, units of the Ministries of Agriculture, Transport and Communications, and Environment, and Lietuvos geležinkeliai AB, as we needed to coordinate and agree many positions and answer many questions. Even though we have carried out exercises in non-military areas before and have experience, the scope is much larger this time," representative of the Defence Staff said.
The Lithuanian Armed Forces signed the agreements thus committing to compensate the damage to roads, fields and crop resulting from the exercise, and local residents allowed Lithuanian and allied troops to use concrete civilian territories in order to practise carrying out corresponding tasks properly and professionally, which is also a way for local residents to participate in the overall defence of the state.
Participants of the exercise will use civilian territories in Marijampolė, Kalvarijos and Lazdijai regions in order to prepare for real-life defence of Lithuania alongside our allies.
The strategic exercise organised by the United States European Command is aimed at demonstrating the U.S. capability to swiftly deploy a combat-credible military unit from the continental united States to a designated location in Europe and to respond to potential conventional crises together with allies and partners. The largest military exercise in Europe in 25 years is planned to encompass not only deployment and readying for combat actions of a division but also a division command post exercise, assault river crossing, amphibious force, and other tasks relevant to the exercise objectives. The defensive international exercise, Defender-Europe 2020 will take place across territories of 10 countries and involve up to 37 thousand military personnel from 18 countries (Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, United States, United Kingdom, Romania). The strategic U.S. exercise Defender-Europe 2020 will be conducted together with other exercises held at the same time: Allied Spirit V, Dynamic front 2020, Joint Warfighting Assessment 2020, Saber strike 2020, Swift Response 2020.
The Lithuanian Armed Forces will train alongside other NATO allies and also train the Lithuanian Land Force Headquarters to plan and conduct division-level operations alongside other NATO divisions: Multinational Division Northeast, Multinational Division North, and the1st Infantry Division and the 82nd Airborne Division deployed by EUCOM. Representatives of the Lithuanian Armed Forces are cooperating to ensure proper readiness, host nation support, and fluent organization on the territory of Lithuania. According to the exercise scenario, a rapid response of military forces to a developing military crisis is planned to be rehearsed in Lithuania, it will encompass deployment of U.S. rapid response elements of the Global Response Force and strengthening and safeguarding of key locations and infrastructure, and ensuring conditions for deployment of the main defence force via the Suwalki Gap.
The part of the international strategic exercise Defender-Europe 2020 in Lithuania is planned to take place at the Gaižiūnai Training Area (Jonava region municipality.), General Silvestras Žukauskas Training Area (Pabradė subdistrict), and Brigadier General Kazys Veverskis Training Area (Kazlų Rūda municipality) and in non-military areas in the vicinity of the Suwalki Gap. In total, over 7 thousand Lithuanian and allied military personnel (from the U.S., Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Germany, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Norway, Iceland, Croatia, Czech Republic) will be training in Lithuania.
Photo credits: Lithuanian Armed Forces