From 6th to 9th of May, the Baltic Defence College (BALTDEFCOL) students of the Joint Command and General Staff Course 2017/2018 and faculty conducted the “Baltic Challenge Staff Ride 2018” to Lithuanian and Polish border. Over the days, the students enhanced their understanding of the geographical and joint military environment of the “Suwalki Corridor”, ongoing military initiatives, logistical challenges, and command and control structures of the eFP battle groups. This understanding was achieved through a series of terrain recces and briefings by subject matter experts.
Photo by 15 Giżycka Brygada Zmechanizowana
On the first day, the students visited different locations in Lithuania like the Hills of Alytus and surroundings of the city of Marijampole. They received an overview on the importance of these locations. The students also analysed geographical differences of those locations and their impacts on military operations and strategy. The last stop on the first day was the Šeštokia Railway Hub where the students were briefed by both a military logistical expert and a civilian railway expert. The discussion focused on the difficulties associated with the transfer of cargo from European Standard gauge rail lines to Russian gauge rail lines (also used in the Baltic states). This railway hub is the only location between the Baltic States and Europe where this transfer occurs.
On the second day, the trip continued into Poland. The day started with a terrain recce of the “Wižajny Heights”, which sits near the intersection of the Polish, Lithuanian, and Russian (Kaliningrad) borders. The students were briefed on the key terrain and geography of the area. The briefing included information on local Polish military capabilities and a discussion on the difficulties of conducting military operations in the area. The study trip was continued with a visit to the major military headquarters in the region, the 15th Polish Mechanized Brigade. At this location, the students received a briefing from the Brigade Commander, BG Gromadzinski and his staff on the conducting of operations on the terrain. The briefing also included a thorough understanding of the 15th Mech Brigade’s structure, responsibilities, and the complexities associated with integrating NATO forces into their command and control structure. The last stop of the trip was a visit to the Enhance Forward Presence Battle Group, which was assigned to the 15th Mechanized Brigade. The Battle Group is made up of land forces from the United States, United Kingdom, Romania, and Croatia. The BALTDEFCOL students were provided an equipment familiarization from soldiers of each country and an overview of the battle group by the unit commander, LTC Lackey.