Rukla, Lithuania, 14 March 2017
The bulk of the German core of the enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup Lithuania (eFP BG LTU) has been in Rukla since the beginning of March, together with its combat vehicles and equipment. After a short preparatory period, they are now about to get to know the training area in Kazla Ruda, a 90-minute drive away.
The engines are already running as the soldiers load the last of their equipment to be used at the training area onto the vehicles. It is a grey, cold Sunday afternoon in Rukla when the eFP Battlegroup soldiers of the German mechanised infantry company leave for Kazla Ruda.
The soldiers from Oberviechtach will face an ambitious programme over the coming week, which will allow them to demonstrate their military skills in different settings.
Intensive training in small groups
After the drive, the company arrives at the training area in the late afternoon. All the soldiers still have to do today is get to know the facilities, move into their sleeping quarters and load equipment from the armoury. Everything needs to be ready to get going in the morning without any delays.
At eight o’clock sharp the soldiers begin their training at three different locations. First they practise movements in the terrain and various battle formations. All of this is just repetition for the soldiers, but practice makes perfect. The soldiers need to master new scenarios again and again to be well prepared for different situations.
One thing is certain: should things get tough, enemy contact will not follow a script. In such a situation the soldiers need to apply what they have learned quickly and confidently and adapt to whatever situation they find themselves in. The soldiers practise in groups of up to eighteen, which is a good number to provide intensive training for each of them.
Training with infantry combat vehicles
The next training sequence involves crossing open paths and gaps in woodland. The soldiers must show that they can get through open patches of terrain by protecting each other. Contrary to the German trainings areas, which most of the soldiers are already very familiar with, every part of the terrain here is new to everybody. The soldiers therefore never know what to expect behind the next corner.
At the end of the exercise, things liven up again. The soldiers practise mounting and dismounting from their Marder invantry combat vehicle. They need to be able to do this without thinking about it, even in the most exceptional circumstances – under fire, for example.
In tandem with this training segment, they practise using handguns and shoulder-fired antitank weapons. The soldiers have to calibrate each weapon themselves. They fire the G36 rifles, register the hits and recalibrate the weapons in small groups at the shooting range.
The weapons should fire with precision, even after long periods of transport. Not far away, the muffled bang of an antitank weapon can be heard. Supervised by instructors, two soldiers use the cover of some artificial ruins to attack their targets.
Lithuanian commander visibly happy
On 9 March, the commander of the Lithuanian Iron Wolf Brigade, Colonel Mindaugas Steponavicius, visited the soldiers at the training area. The eFP Battlegroup is part of this brigade, and they coordinate training and potential battle plans together.
This was the first opportunity for Colonel Steponavicius to see the German soldiers in action. Apart from the training with the Milan antitank rocket, he was especially interested in the Marder infantry combat vehicle.
Since the Lithuanian armed forces only have infantry and light-armoured transport vehicles, seeing the technology and operational capabilities of mechanised infantry with their vehicles in a combat situation was something new. Colonel Steponavicius was visibly happy with the German soldiers’ performance.
Feedback is important
The demanding training programme will take all week, and the armoured infantry soldiers get feedback directly after each training sequence. This is intended to improve the performance of the entire group as well as the conduct of individual soldiers.
This is very important for the soldiers, since their lives and those of their comrades-in-arms are at stake in combat situations. If the worst came to the worst, they are the ones who, as part of eFP Battlegroup Lithuania, would have to defend Lithuania and its people against an aggressor.
This is the translation of an article by Stephan Rabe published on www.bundeswehr.de