Story by Sgt. Jarred Woods
7th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
RUKLA, Lithuania – Equipment is check and rechecked. Supplies are loaded up and secured. A distinctive scent fills the air as engines crank and diesel fuel turns into smoke.
Such was the frequent scene as Soldiers from Gamble Company, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne) and the Distribution Company, Grand Duke Vytenis Main Support Logistics Battalion, Lithuanian Land Forces transported supplies in Poland from Aug. 10-15, 2015.
The mission, originating and ending in Marijampole, Lithuania, made stops at several military bases throughout Poland. It afforded U.S. and Lithuanian service members a chance to work together to accomplish a real world mission within a third-party country.
“The significant thing about this convoy was that we were able to do it with our Lithuanian counterparts,” said 2nd Lt. Jonathan Brodersen, the distribution platoon leader with Gamble Company. “Not only were we able to do our job as a forward support company, but we were also able to show the world we can work with our NATO allies.”
As with any operation involving multiple nations, challenges arise, however, obstacles can often present new opportunities.
“The language barrier is the biggest obstacle, but even that we’ve been able to overcome by identifying the personnel who can speak English,” added Brodersen. “It has helped with communicating over the radio while on the road in order to maintain intervals and identify problems with equipment.”
“On previous missions, it has taken awhile to figure out the forklift or crane situation for uploading. The Lithuanian’s Load Handling System Vehicle is actually equipped for uploading so we’ve also been able to use their equipment to upload containers. Not only were we able overcome a time efficiency notice, but we were actually able to complete our mission faster with their equipment.”
The interoperability of the mission also helped the Lithuanian contingent with developing future convoy tactics.
“We learned many things,” said 2nd Lt. Povilas Stanaitis, a platoon leader with the MSLB. “The lieutenant was at the front of the convoy, but the platoon sergeant was in the back controlling the pace and distance of the convoy. I thought that made everything go really smooth.”
With new missions, come new experiences. Traveling with different people to a nation, neither of who calls home, one can expect the unexpected.
“The feeling was just great,” added Povilas. “In one place I saw two people holding American flags, and I was thinking, ‘how?’ People just don’t have American flags in Poland and wave with them for a convoy. Even though it wasn’t a Lithuanian flag, it was a great feeling because Americans are here and someone is cheering for them. To see those people waving in a small city, it was a great feeling for you and for us.”
The proverbial and actual roads moving forward with regard to future Lithuanian and U.S. cooperative missions are sure to be reflective of the experiences gained.
“Going through Poland has been incredible,” Brodersen said. “It’s fascinating to see how the people literally stop what they’re doing, look at us and wave – just to see the smile on their face. It’s really cool just to see these people appreciate the U.S. presence.”