Allies intensify training together

The allied Saber Strike military training exercises began Monday at the National Armed Forces (NBS) Training Ground in Ādaži, while NATO started its BALTOPS naval drills in the Baltic Sea on Friday.

Saber Strike is the US-led land and air-force joint training exercise held since 2010 hosted this year by Lithuania. But one of the key field tactical exercises involving more than a thousand soldiers from Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, the US, UK and Finland will be held inside Latvian territory, Defense Ministry spokesperson Daina Ozoliņa told Latvian Radio reporter Māra Rozenberga Monday.

“The training will continue from June 8 through 19, so residents must take into account that there will be near air support – planes and helicopters, plus a lot of military equipment being transported on the roads,” she explained.

“There will be some heavy gear from Estonia and Lithuania, as their forces will be training here, and there will be equipment heading for the ports, too. We will within reason notify the public in a timely fashion and there is truly nothing to be excited about. These are our allies arriving for military training together with us. The goal of the drills is to improve cooperation, compatibility and train the Baltic Battalion for taking part in NATO’s reaction forces starting in 2016.”

The NBS announced Monday that the low-flying air maneuvers would be scheduled at particular times provided for by Latvian law during daylight hours each day between June 15 and 19.

The Eastern Clinical University Hospital in Riga will be the first civilian hospital ever to take part in such operations. On Monday US special forces will model a situation where a large number of US troops are wounded in Ādaži and Rēzekne and must be transported there by helicopter for urgent medical care.

So not just the mettle of the military, but also the civilian professional medical community will be tested this time around, Eastern Hospital board chairman Anita Slokenberga told national information agency LETA.

Meanwhile since Friday the Baltic Sea has filled with parts of the fleets of seventeen states taking part in BALTOPS this year and will run until June 20.

Also meant to hone the ability of the Allies and partners to work jointly, the exercise will feature anti-submarine warfare, air defense, vessel interception and amphibious landing. Altogether 41 ships, 61 aircraft, a submarine and amphibious landing force will involve around 5,600 troops. This year BALTOPS is being held together with the series of NATO drills Allied Shield.

Besides NATO partners Finland and Sweden, the armed forces of Georgia are also taking part in BALTOPS this year, along with allies Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

BALTOPS has been held since 1972. Latvia has participated in the operation since 1996.

BALTRON Baltic Naval Squadron commander Lieutenant Captian Jānis Auce said it is ready for its mission: "We've been preparing for this training for months," he told defense news portal Sargs.lv Friday.

At a ceremony at the Ādaži  base Mondya morning, the flags of participating nation were hoisted aloft while a pair of US A-10 'Warthogs' performed a flyover.

Addressing the troops, Latvian Chief of Defense General Raimonds Graube said: "Saber Strike has grown threefold since is was conducted for the first time in 2010. More than 6,000 soldiers from 13 countries will participate this year promoting regional stability and security."

"The new security situation after the annexation of Crimea has led to a review of collective defense. This time security challenges arose not in Afghanistan or Iraq but close to our homes - and NATO chose to react to this challenge."

"Today we can see not only our NATO allies but also our partners from Finland standing their ready to train with us shoulder to shoulder."

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