Largest deployment in Latvian history takes place at NATO exercise in Germany
By MARTIN EGNASH | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 17, 2017
HOHENFELS, Germany — Exercise Allied Spirit, a training event held annually at the U.S. Army training area here, is the first multinational brigade-level exercise commanded by the Latvian military, officials said.
“This is the biggest deployment in Latvian history,” said Raimonds Bergmanis, Latvia’s defense minister. “This is the first time we’ve led on a brigade level. It is a great honor for Latvia to lead the headquarters in Allied Spirit.”
The March 8-31 exercise at the training center in Hohenfels brought together more than 2,700 participants from 13 countries. Allied forces traded tactics, techniques and equipment. Although more than half of the soldiers conducting the training are Americans, Latvia fielded an entire brigade, and Col. Ilmars Lejins commanded the exercise headquarters element.
“I am very impressed with the Latvian brigade,” said Brig. Gen. Tony Aguto, commanding general of the 7th Army Training Command. “The Latvian command is extremely excited to be here, and they’re doing a great job. We’re both learning a lot from each other.”
Latvia, a country of 2 million people, became a member of the trans-Atlantic alliance in 2004, together with its Baltic neighbors Estonia and Lithuania. Together with Poland, the Baltic nations are the focus of a NATO-wide effort to deter possible Russian aggression in the region. Canada is leading a multinational unit that will be based in Estonia, part of a 4,000-strong NATO force that will be distributed among the four countries.
“This is all about the strength of the alliance,” said Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, commanding officer of Allied Land Command. “Allied Spirit shows that the NATO alliance is strong, and that all these nations can work together to become even stronger.”