BRUNSSUM, the Netherlands – This week, Standing NATO Maritime Counter Measures Group 1 (SNMCMG1) commenced an operation off the Norwegian coast near Bodø. The so-called Historic Ordnance Disposal (HOD) strives to locate and destroy mines and other explosives still endangering safe navigation in the waters affected left over from the World Wars. These operations are also often conducted in the Baltic Sea, where a lot of dangerous ordnance from the wars can still be found. In this case, Operation ‘NORHOD’ (Norwegian HOD) is executed in the high North by SNMCMG1 under the leadership of Commander Audrius Venckunas of the Lithuanian Navy. In the course of the operation, training opportunities with other NATO navies are welcome, and the SNMCMG1 flagship, LNS ‘Jotvingis’, executed a passing exercise with the Royal Norwegian Navy Skjold-class Corvette, RNoN ‘Storm’.
As announced earlier this week, the Lithuanian military is considering building a new training facility in the west of the country to accommodate exercises of Lithuanian and NATO soldiers, according to Defence Minister Raimundas Karoblis. The existing military training area in Pabradė is sufficient for US and NATO enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) exercises, he stressed, but that leaves less space for Lithuanian troops. Therefore, there are plans for further investments into the training areas in Pabradė and Rukla, the latter being the garrison of the Lithuanian Iron Wolf Brigade and NATO’s eFP Battlegroup.
“A study is now also being done on a fairly large training area in Lithuania, which is really necessary due to those challenges I tried to describe as we and our allies are bursting at the seams together and hardly have enough space for ourselves,” the minister said.
Lt Col Papenbroock (left) and Lt Col Niemann (right) with the Commander Lithuanian Iron Wolf Brigade, Colonel Petkevičius, after the hand-over ceremony.
(Photo: Alfredas Pliadis, LTU MoD)
This week, the German-led enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battlegroup in Lithuania commenced its eighth rotation since February 2017 - and an old acquaintance once again took over command of the multinational battalion: Lieutenant Colonel Peer Papenbroock, Commander of ‘Panzerbataillon 104’ from Pfreimd in Bavaria - he has previously led the eFP Battlegroup for six months in 2019 - replaced Lieutenant Colonel Axel Niemann, who commanded the Battlegroup on NATO's northeastern flank since February this year. Also for a second time, Lt Col Niemann’s Armoured Infantry Battalion 371, nicknamed the ‘Marienberg Light Infantry’ after their home garrison in Saxony close to the Czech border, make up the bulk of the Battlegroup. During their first tour in 2017, they however served under a different commander.
“We faced an invisible enemy, but with hard measures and military discipline we were able to overcome this threat. We have successfully completed the mission and I am proud of it”, said outgoing Commander Lt Col Niemann.
The mission is to train, sustain and improve military capabilities and help protect the host nation by providing a credible deterrence against any potential adversary. The NATO eFP Battlegroup Lithuania is a reinforced battalion under the command of the Lithuanian Iron Wolf Brigade, whose commander, Colonel Mindaugas Petkevičius, conducted the hand-over ceremony from Lt Col Niemann to Lt Col Papenbroock.