HOHENFELS, Germany – Members of the 1st Territorial Unit Dainava of the Lithuania National Defence Volunteer Force, or KASP, and U.S. Army Green Berets assigned to 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne) participated in exercise Saber Junction 18 September 4-30, 2018 at U.S. Army Europe’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center here.
Saber Junction 18 is designed to assess the readiness of the U.S. Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade to execute land operations in a joint, combined environment and promote interoperability with participating Allied and partner nations. As part of the exercise, Special Operations Forces work alongside the KASP to conduct irregular warfare in enemy occupied territory to set conditions on the battlefield that will ensure the success of conventional forces.
During SJ18 soldiers from 20th SFG(A) and the KASP conducted missions behind enemy lines to degrade the enemy’s ability to fight, allowing for the 173rd and coalition forces to conduct a joint forcible entry to mass combat power.
“Our primary mission is to support the 173rd joint force entry,” said a team sergeant assigned to 20th SFG(A). “Integral to that is taking out air defense systems so they could safely project their forces through a mass tactical airborne operation and air assaults. With the KASP we were able to conduct recon and identify and destroy those high payoff targets.
Large joint, combined maneuver exercises provide a valuable opportunity for SOF to refine their ability to work in close cooperation with conventional forces. SJ18 also provides the KASP with a stage to refine their ability to work with SOF.
“The goal is to work together with the U.S. Special Forces,” said Corporal Mantas, assigned to 1st Territorial Unit Dainava. “We share tactical techniques and [procedures] to ensure we can better work together. If we were to work with a Special Forces unit again in the future it will be much easier to understand them during operations in the field.”
The KASP is part of the Lithuanian Land Force and a modern active reserve comprised of volunteers, tasked with territorial defense.
“The KASP is part of the Lithuanian Land Forces and the mission is to prepare soldiers for the armed defense of the nation against aggression,” said Major M. Pečiukonis, the planning chief assigned to 1st Territorial Unit Dainava. “For KASP soldiers the training we are doing here at the Saber Junction Exercise is very important. The operations and missions we are doing here are very similar to those we train at home in preparation of defending our homeland. It is good to conduct this training in a large-scale exercise, we are able to learn many lessons and we can use those to improve for the future.”
For both the 20th SFG(A) and the KASP, the training they are able to conduct during SJ18 wouldn’t be possible without a venue like JMRC hosting the exercise.
“It’s great to be here because it is in a foreign environment,” said the U.S. team sergeant. “We have done similar exercises at Joint Readiness Training Center, but everyone there speaks English and it is home turf so nothing is unfamiliar. Here we are working with the KASP, where we need to figure out how to blend in with the populace, use their transportation systems, obtain supplies on the local economy, and rotate safe houses nightly without revealing that we are part of an exercise.”
As the premier Europe-based Combat Training Center, JMRC is capable of preparing multinational leaders, staffs, and units up to Brigade Combat Teams for dominance in Unified Land Operations anywhere in the world.
With its vast resources and expansive training area, the scenarios constructed for training units at JMRC can accurately replicate those they might face in future operations.
“Here at an exercise like Saber Junction the most important thing that we are able to get out of the training that we cannot get at home is the ability to work with different countries and learn their procedures,” said Pečiukonis. “One of the tasks of the KASP is to prepare for the territorial defense in coordination with the Lithuanian land defense and in cooperation with allies, so we fulfill this training task during the exercise by training with allies. It is a good challenge for the leadership, and for the soldiers it is valuable experience to work with all the other units and in a different environment.”
The presence of U.S. and multinational SOF at a large multinational training rotation like SJ18 is greatly beneficial to building readiness amongst NATO and partner forces.
“What 20th SFG(A) brings to this rotation is very seasoned and experienced operators that understand building relationships is as important as teaching partner forces how to fight,” said a battalion executive officer assigned to 20th SFG(A). “Special Operation Forces cannot fight without conventional forces support; we are dependent on each other. We don’t have the capacity to take on an entire enemy brigade; SOF must set the conditions for the conventional fight.”
Exercises like Saber Junction also build the core competency of SOF. For Army Special Forces elements like 20th SFG(A), this means the opportunity to exercise their core irregular warfare tasks, such as working alongside foreign internal defense forces like the KASP.
“Working with the KASP helps us integrate our operational tempos for planning into joint missions that we feel might replicate future potential conflicts,” said the U.S. team sergeant. “The KASP is the perfect partner force to work with because they understand the Irregular Warfare mission, blending in, being undetected, and the tasks like raids, ambushes, sabotage and intelligence gathering.”