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A High Mobility Artillery Rocket System leaves a U.S. aircraft during an exercise in Riga, Latvia, Oct. 25, 2021. U.S. Army Europe and Africa deployed soldiers and two HIMARS systems to Latvia on Sept. 26, 2022, to demonstrate rapid artillery deployment to NATO’s eastern flank.

A High Mobility Artillery Rocket System leaves a U.S. aircraft during an exercise in Riga, Latvia, Oct. 25, 2021. U.S. Army Europe and Africa deployed soldiers and two HIMARS systems to Latvia on Sept. 26, 2022, to demonstrate rapid artillery deployment to NATO’s eastern flank. (Patrik Orcutt/U.S. Army)

STUTTGART, Germany — The U.S. Army dispatched long-range artillerymen to Latvia on Monday for national combat readiness drills alongside local and allied forces, service officials said.

U.S. Army Europe and Africa said it deployed two M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems with a dozen personnel to the Baltic nation, where security concerns have grown following Russia’s full-fledged invasion of Ukraine in February.

Col. Richard Ikena, 1st Infantry Division artillery commander, said the mission highlights the Army’s ability to get into position “at a moment’s notice anywhere in the European theater.”

The HIMARS system entered Army service in 2005. Its heavy warheads and roughly 50-mile rocket range are being credited by military analysts for helping level out Russia’s numerical advantage, as Ukraine seeks to regain territory in its east and south.

U.S. Marines launch rockets from a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System during training at Adazi Training Area, Latvia, March 7, 2019. U.S. Army Europe and Africa deployed soldiers and two HIMARS systems to Latvia on Sept. 26, 2022, to demonstrate rapid artillery deployment to NATO’s eastern flank.

U.S. Marines launch rockets from a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System during training at Adazi Training Area, Latvia, March 7, 2019. U.S. Army Europe and Africa deployed soldiers and two HIMARS systems to Latvia on Sept. 26, 2022, to demonstrate rapid artillery deployment to NATO’s eastern flank. (Andy O. Martinez/U.S. Marine Corps)

The units participating include the Fort Bragg, N.C.-based 3rd Battalion, 321st Field Artillery Regiment, which deployed to Germany in February as part of the U.S. effort to bolster forces in Europe.

The soldiers are operating under the command of 1st Infantry Division Artillery. The 352nd Special Operations Wing transported the HIMARS teams in C-130 planes to two locations in Latvia.

The moves resemble other recent U.S. Army and special operations efforts in Europe over the past two years that have emphasized maneuvering artillery units on short notice to strategic locations.

For example, in November 2020, U.S. special operators and Army artillerymen for the first time in Europe loaded ground rockets onto a low-flying aircraft for a quick-strike drill that hit targets in the Black Sea.

Even before Russia’s attacks on Ukraine in February, adding long-range artillery has been a priority for the Army in Europe, where it has reconstituted Cold War-era forces to counter Russian provocations along the NATO alliance’s eastern flank.

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John covers U.S. military activities across Europe and Africa. Based in Stuttgart, Germany, he previously worked for newspapers in New Jersey, North Carolina and Maryland. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.

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