With the target in sight, instructions are relayed to waiting artillerymen – a fire mission is underway. With a deep thud, followed by a brief moment of eerie silence, massive explosions erupt downrange – another enemy has been wiped from the battlefield.
Such was the intent as fires teams of various NATO allies came together during the culmination of Exercise Flaming Thunder, April 22, a joint multinational live-fire exercise held at the General Silvestras Zlikaliskas Training Area in Pabrade, Lithuania.
The exercise, which began earlier this month featuring fires teams from the U.S., Lithuanian, Polish and Portuguese armed forces, was a part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, a NATO initiative committed to the continued security of its allies throughout Eastern Europe.
“It’s all part of the U.S. coming over here to train with its allies, help build relationships and develop joint planning operations,” said 1st Lt. Matthew Barclay, a platoon leader with Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion, 41st Artillery Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, based on Fort Stewart, Georgia.
“Interoperability plays a big part with us coming together. It helps us understand how everyone operates so we can be successful on the battlefield,” Barclay said.
During actual training, Service members had their game faces on, however, the exercise also afforded troops of varying nations to break down potential barriers and experience differing cultures.
“For me, it was a new and unique experience,” said Sgt. Daniel Ptak, a forward observer with the 15th Mechanized Brigade, based in Gizycko, Portugal. “We don’t have these types of exercises in Portugal. It’s quite fascinating to see guys other than my own from different nations.”
Sometimes we have problems with the language or methods; all of us use different methods, so it is important for us to know how the others work.
“We learned a lot and we also made some new friendships. I will have good memories from this experience,” he said.
The peak of the exercise featured a simulated coastal bombardment, affording the participating nations the chance to showcase their skills. The finale was observed by visiting dignitaries comprised of high-ranking military members and officials of the Lithuanian Ministry of Defense.
“This event was a unique experience for our troops,” said Maj. Gen. Almantas Lieka, Land Forces commander for the Lithuanian military. “It was a great opportunity for our gunners to train with and understand how other units operate. We’re also extremely grateful for the American troops who are here in Lithuania.”