Brunssum, Netherlands - Decisions made at NATO’s Warsaw Summit, in July 2016, as a consequence of Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and continued interventions in eastern Ukraine are now a reality for Alliance members. The German Bundeswehr provides one of four rotational multinational battalion-size manoeuvre formations deployed in the scope of NATO's enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) policy in the three Baltic NATO member states and Poland – the eFP Battlegroup in Lithuania.
Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway and Luxembourg will together contribute troops to the eFP Battlegroup, deployed to Lithuania, this year. Its nucleus will comprise mechanised and infantry forces; this will be reinforced by support assets such as CBRN defence, artillery, engineers and air defence units, if the need arises. The formation is to be fully operational by June 2017.
The advance party wasted no time in starting preparations for the arrival of the bulk of the Battlegroup deployed to Lithuania, at Rukla, in cooperation with Belgian logisticians and the Lithuanian armed forces. "We have been working very closely with all partners on the ground from the start, be it the Lithuanian armed forces, the NATO Force Integration Unit (NFIU) in Vilnius or military personnel from other troop-contributing nations” stated Lt. Col. Christoph Huber, German Army, the first commander of the eFP Battlegroup in Lithuania.
According to Lt. Col. Huber it had been clear that there would be some challenges at the start of the mission, in which he will have about 1,000 troops under his command. "But we have been equal to all obstacles encountered so far”, he added. Lt. Col. Huber and his personnel have been conscious of a very special spirit throughout their stay. "We have felt welcome since the day we arrived, which gives my soldiers and me the strength to deal with all current and future problems.”
Only four weeks have passed since the arrival of the first Battlegroup soldiers in Lithuania. A lot has been accomplished since then: More than 200 vehicles, including 30 combat vehicles, have arrived in several rail transports from Germany. More than 400 German soldiers have already arrived in Rukla, which is located about 90 km (55 miles) northwest of Vilnius. The Belgian logisticians in Lithuania, in particular, have provided excellent rapid deployment sup-port and the troops have started training with fellow Lithuanian soldiers in parallel to the rapid build-up of the battlegroup. "We are demonstrating to the people in Lithuania that we stand by them”, the commander said.
Story by JFC Brunssum Public Affairs Office