As part of the National Guard’s State Partnership Program, JFHQ-PA has partnered with the country of Lithuania since 1993. Through this international affairs program, the PNG has an opportunity to host Lithuanian personnel and to participate with other NATO countries. This includes supporting the International Security Forces in Afghanistan. Serving in Lithuania is the Bilateral Affairs Officer (PA National Guardsman) who coordinates for many of the events.
The Republic of Lithuania, located at the geographical center of Europe, is bordered by Latvia to the north, Belarus to the east/southeast, Poland and the Kaliningrad region of Russia to the southwest, and a 43 mile coastline along the Baltic Sea to the west. Slightly larger than West Virginia, the population is approximately 3.7 million, comprised of 80 percent ethnic Lithuanian, with the remaining 20 percent split between Russian, Polish and Belarusian. The most common religious affiliations are Catholic and Lutheran.
Independent between the two World Wars, Lithuania was illegally occupied by the USSR in 1940. On 11 March 1990, Lithuania became the first of the Soviet Republics to declare its independence; subsequently restructuring its economy for integration into western European institutions. While modest amounts of recoverable oil have been discovered in the western part of the country and in adjoining areas offshore, the country remains dependent on imports for fuel and raw materials. During 2001, Lithuania continued to successfully utilize its geographic location to advance its international trade objectives. The country has completed numerous free trade agreements which create monetary and fiscal policy as well as an improving economic situation in the country has pushed the rate of inflation down to single digit levels. With most of the state property now privatized, the government is reducing its role in the banking sector and is planning to privatize its state banks. Lithuania became a full-fledged member of the European Union (EU) in May 2004. According to the data provided by the Lithuanian Seimas (parliament), 90 percent of the participating voters were in support of Lithuania joining the EU. Lithuania and nine other EU invitees signed the Accession Treaty in Athens in April 2003. The treaty came into effect after it was ratified by the parliaments of the EU member states and candidate countries.
State Partnership Program:
The partnership with Pennsylvania and the Republic of Lithuania was initiated in April of 1993 and has been extremely active. Since then, Pennsylvania National Guard members and Lithuanian soldiers and civic officials have traveled to each other’s countries on more than 275 occasions to observe training and exchange experiences. They worked together to broaden the understanding of the Pennsylvania National Guard’s planning and training methods. In the late 1990’s, the Pennsylvania National Guard was instrumental in assisting Lithuania with the development of their Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) Academy, which was modeled after the U.S. NCO Education System. A total of 26 Lithuanian officers participated in the five train-the-trainer familiarization visits to Pennsylvania, with the focus on curriculum development for NCO course preparation at the newly created Division General Stasys Rastikis NCO School in Kaunas. These officers became acquainted with a diversity of topics such as medical specialist instructor course development; field artillery NCO course development; leadership training management; democratic civil-military relation; NCO development; interoperability; and emergency operations. Visits to the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency were paramount to the Lithuanians’ understanding of how the military provides support to civilian authorities during snowstorms, floods and other types of domestic emergency operations.
A specific topic of interest to the Lithuanian military was nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) reconnaissance techniques. Discussions and demonstrations on U.S. procedures for conducting NBC reconnaissance included methods of detection; reporting and making of contaminated areas; immediate action requirements; defensive postures for reconnaissance elements; and major NATO command munitions awareness. NATO standard forms, reporting procedures and familiarization with reference materials were also discussed.
The most recent significant event for Lithuania was its entry into NATO on March 29, 2004. This was the fifth, and largest, round of enlargement in NATO’s 55 year history. Seven new countries, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia were added to the membership. The alliance has grown from its twelve founding countries in 1949 to 26 today. With Lithuania’s entry as a full NATO partner, the partnership program will take some new directions, with a focus on NATO interoperability and combat service support (CSS) in support of NATO stability and support operations. Main areas will include: Transformation and Modernization of the Military, English language training, Defense Cooperation in Armaments Agreements, Logistics Training and Assistance.
The joint effort between Pennsylvania and Lithuania continues to serve the needs and demands of the Lithuanian military and its government well, exemplifying the tremendous ambitions for the development of democratic and civilian-controlled military forces. Information on a multitude of military related topics has been exchanged, but more importantly, strong relationships have been formed both on the personnel and organizational level. The Pennsylvania-Lithuania partners enjoy a rewarding and long-term friendship.