Story by 1st Lt. Allegra Boutch
100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
PABRADE, Lithuania—U.S. Army Soldiers from the Texas, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota National Guard celebrated the U.S. Army birthday, June 14, 2017, during Exercise Iron Wolf 17 in Pabrade, Lithuania. The celebration hosted by the 2-136 Combined Arms Battalion, and led by Lt. Col. Jason Benson, 2-136 CAB commander, was attended by soldiers from Croatian, Norwegian, Lithuanian and other allied forces.
The celebration illustrated the bonds formed during participation in the multinational exercise, designed to enhance the U.S. force’s professional relationships and improve coordination with NATO Allies and partnered militaries during times of crisis. The exercise falls under the U.S. Army Europe-led theater exercise, Saber Strike 17, which involves 20 countries and over 11,000 soldiers.
During the celebration, Benson thanked NATO Allies and was honored with a traditional Lithuanian cake, presented by Col. Arturas Radvilas, commander of the Motorised Infantry Brigade Žemaitija.
“Thank you NATO Allies whom we consider dear friends for being here tonight,” Benson said. “Traditionally—regardless of location—Soldiers pause to observe our birthday by sharing a cake and usually, a holiday meal.”
Following U.S. Army tradition, the first piece of cake was cut by the oldest Soldier in the command, signifying the honor and respect accorded to experience and seniority. The oldest Soldier at the celebration was SSG Klee Smith, who served the first piece of cake to the youngest Soldier, PFC George Ongoro.
To one attendee, the celebration symbolized the importance of these long term partnerships standing shoulder to shoulder as they look forward to the future.
“It’s nice seeing everyone come out,” said SSG John Michael with the Higher Headquarters Command 134 Brigade Support Battalion. “Having the other forces here is key to our multinational partnership.”
These partnerships unambiguously demonstrate the NATO Allies and partnered nations’ determination and ability to act as one in response to any potential and actual threats in the Baltic States. The time soldiers took to celebrate that partnership during the 242nd U.S. Army birthday, only strengthened the relationships which could play a critical role in the nations’ future battles.