During the visit to the United States Chief of Defence of Lithuania Lt Gen Valdemaras Rupšys met with Adjutant General of Pennsylvania Major General Mark J. Schindler. The Pennsylvania National Guard (PANG) is one of the largest National Guards in the United States defence system. The Lithuanian Armed Forces marks the 30th anniversary of defence cooperation with the PANG under the State Partnership Program next year. AT the meeting, Generals discussed the comprehensive PANG assistance to the Lithuanian Armed Forces, instructor training, cooperation on cybersecurity, training in joint exercises, plans ahead and veteran social security.
“We thank the Pennsylvania National Guard for all the assistance it provides for strengthening military capabilities and infrastructure of Lithuania. Such assistance with finance, expertise and interaction facilitates a comprehensive growth of the strength of our military. Next year we will mark the 30th anniversary of cooperation with the Guard that strengthens the Lithuanian Armed Forces and stands as one of the guarantees of the security in the Baltic states region,” underscored Chief of Defence at the meeting. .
The relevance of cooperation with the PANG significantly increased in 2019 with the signature of an agreement between the Lithuanian Land Force and the 28th Infantry Division (28ID) of the PANG on developing a division-level command and control (C2) capability. The Training and Doctrine Command and the National Defence Volunteer Force are the other two units to develop cooperation with the PANG whose Red Horses Engineer Unit ensured installation of an air-to surface range at Kazlų Rūda Training Area for training JTAC/ TACP capabilities in 2018.
Chief of Defence Lt Gen V. Rupšys also visited the PANG Air Guard Pilot and Maintenance Training Centre where Lithuanian airmen will undergo training to be able to use the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters procured from the United States.
One of the major areas of cooperation between Lithuania and the U.S. is cybersecurity and cyber defence capability development. PANG experts trained in the international cybersecurity Exercise Amber Mist 2022, follows the potential of the Cyber Defence Centre established in Kaunas in 2021 to serve as a regional platform for practical cooperation on defence of critical infrastructure against cyber-attacks and cooperates on 5G and election security. PANG cybersecurity experts were in Lithuania during the Presidential elections in 2019 to discuss, observe and contribute to election cybersecurity, military of both countries benefited from the experience.
Developed since 1993, the cooperation has been expanding and getting stronger as experience exchange events across the Lithuanian Armed Forces and in joint exercise. Numerous joint events, seminars and meetings, military exercises took place over the years, troops of the two countries also served in the international operation in Afghanistan 2009-2012. Personnel of the Pennsylvania National Guard continuously train in military exercises in the Baltic states and Lithuanian troops – in military exercises, instructor training programmes and other events in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania and Lithuania share strong ties through the oldest Lithuanian community abroad. Many Lithuanians emigrated fleeing the Russian rule back and seeking better life in coalmining and railway in late 19th century. The largest percent of citizens considering themselves of Lithuanian ancestry still live in Pennsylvania. Lt Samuel J. Harris with the PANG 112th Brigade (it still exists in composition of the 28th Infantry Division) was shot dead in Kaunas a hundred years ago on 24 February 1920 in Kaunas, Lithuania, the Government of Lithuania paid survivor’s pension and awarded the officer posthumously.
Photo credits: Lithuanian Armed Forces