Approximately 150 members of the Pennsylvania Air and Army National Guard are traveling to Eastern Europe for a training mission.
The 2nd Squadron 104th Cavalry Regiment, 56th Stryker Brigade deployed Thursday from Harrisburg International Airport.
The soldiers and airmen will spend two and a half weeks in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia for a training mission called “Saber Strike.”
“It’s just increasing our core competency. We’re a reconnaissance element so we focus on reconnaissance and security operations, so that’s our primary focus,” troop commander David Fittipoldi said.
The exercise involves 2,000 personnel from 14 countries.
“We have been training with them for the last 21 years,” Fittipoldi said. “We’ve established a great rapport with them, a great training relationship, so we’re just really looking forward to the opportunity to increase this training opportunity and this relationship.”
Adjutant General Wesley Craig says the relationship is more important now than in recent years.
“They’ve also lived under the boot of Russian oppression for 160 out of the last 200 years. So, Russia getting active again is very concerning to them,” Craig said.
The mission will strengthen both U.S. troops and trust with the three countries.
“Our deployment is a great way of signaling that NATO is indeed serious about that, and is willing to send troops in harm’s way, and also train with the locals if necessary,” Craig said.