Panevėžys, Lithuania, 6 June 2017
Saturday morning, 9.00 a.m. The centre of the Lithuanian city of Panevėžys gets busy. Flatbed trucks of the Lithuanian armed forces and enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup Lithuania (eFP) bring numerous vehicles to the CIDO Arena. Today is the Armed Forces and Public Unity Day. As soon as the deep rumble of the tank engines can be heard, curious visitors come to have a look.
The people watch attentively as the vehicles roll off the flatbed trucks. Less than half an hour later, the tanks have been brought into position, one next to the other.
The Allies present their equipment
The Armed Forces and Public Unity Day takes place in a different Lithuanian city every year. This time it is Panevėžys’ turn. Some 50,000 visitors take this opportunity to become acquainted with the capabilities of their armed forces and the eFP Battlegroup. After the opening of this major event by the Defence Minister and the Chief of Defence, the Honour Guard’s Drill Team wows the crowd with its impressive performance.
A great spectacle – on the ground and in the air
Every visitor can learn all about the different branches and units of the Lithuanian armed forces on the huge exhibition ground. In addition to presentations of the Lithuanian army, many information and food stalls and courses where small military patrols are performed for the civilian population, the combat vehicles and the equipment were the main attraction.
A Lithuanian helicopter with guests on board flies over the city several times. In the afternoon, Dutch F-16 combat aircraft, which are stationed in Latvia as part of Baltic Air Policing, perform a fly-past.
Great interest in NATO and eFP
Belgian, Dutch and German vehicles are part of the spectacle. “The visitors enjoy very much getting into or on top of the Marder armoured infantry fighting vehicle,” says Staff Sergeant T. „It’s a real highlight.” Together with the Leopard 2 battle tank, the CV 90 and the Fennek reconnaissance vehicle, the 2000 self-propelled howitzer is an absolute magnet for the visitors. Two years ago, Lithuania bought 21 of these howitzers in Germany.
The high number of visitors gives testimony to the people’s interest in NATO and their support for the soldiers. In the late afternoon, the event comes to an end. Some visitors personally thanked the eFP Battlegroup soldiers for participating in the Armed Forces and Public Unity Day as well as for being in Lithuania.
This is the translation of an article by Heiner Bumüller published on www.bundeswehr.de