(100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)
PABRADE, Lithuania —Eight Texas Army National Guard Soldiers from the 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, stationed in Austin, were sent to the Baltics to support a training exercise that spanned through four countries and brought together 11,000 soldiers from 20 nations.
Texas soldiers provided Public Affairs support to the exercise in Pabrade and Vilnuis, Lithuania, June 4-19, 2017.
Saber Strike 17, an exercise designed to promote regional stability and security while strengthening partner capabilities and fostering trust, is the sixth iteration of the exercise, but the first, in the series, Texas Guardsmen have provided public affairs support for. The exercise series facilitates cooperation between the U.S., Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland and other Allied and partnered nations to improve joint operational capacity in a variety of capabilities.
While on the ground, the 100th MPAD provided photo, video and print journalism coverage for training and field operations.
One new soldier said the training gave him an appreciation for the work military public affairs does.
“I think the stories we put out are key to capturing what our multinational partnerships are all about,” said Sgt. Mark Otte. “We are sharing soldier stories for families back home and providing transparency. Public support is key, and I think our role will ultimately have a hand in the strength of next year’s exercise.”
During an interview for a print story highlighting NATO’s role in the exercise, Otte spoke with Col. Jakob Larsen, commander of the Lithuanian NATO Force Integration Units.
“NATO’s mission is not a standalone mission,” said Larsen. “We are not only working hand-in-hand with the Americans for Saber Strike but also with the host nation [Lithuania]. I think it is important that you are transparent and predictable so that your neighbors will not be concerned about what you do.”
During the 13 days spent in the Baltic state, the 100th MPAD soldiers published seven print stories, eight videos and over 150 photos shared by the Armed Forces Network, the National Guard Bureau and other publishing agencies. But after hurdling every challenge faced in covering an operation of this magnitude, the MPAD Soldiers say the relationships built during the operation were by far their greatest achievement.
“The challenge of coming to an exercise where we’re covering operations for 20 participating nations across four different countries is absolutely logistical,” said 1 Lt. Allegra Boutch, officer in charge of 100th MPAD operations in the Pabrade area. “The benefit of bringing an MPAD to Saber Strike, however, isn’t just that we are able to accomplish our mission with limited resources and information, but as we build our network, we’re contributing to the multinational partnerships with every interaction and every interview we have.”
While in the region MPAD leaders also partnered with Lithuanian and Croatian public affairs officers to collaborate, share information and learn what each partner could do to improve their own public affairs practices.
“Our hope is through the images we take our Soldiers will never forget the friendships built here, and the world will see the strength of our convictions,” said Boutch.
Multiple writers contributed to this story.