Warning

 

Close

Confirm Action

Are you sure you wish to do this?

Confirm Cancel
Member Login

Posted: 6/3/2008 5:53:59 PM EST
Lithuanians Choose to Stay the Course
Courtesy Story
Posted on 06.03.2008 at 05:30AM

By Sgt. Daniel T. West
214th Fires Brigade, Public Affairs Office

FORWARD OPERATING BASE DELTA, Iraq – With only a week remaining in their six-month tour in Iraq, soldiers from Lithuanian Contingent 10, Iron Wolf Brigade, faced a difficult choice.

Two options remained following the news that the Lithuanian government had voted to extend the unit’s tour for two more months: the soldiers could volunteer for the extension or continue their redeployment.

“Since they were already packed and I knew how difficult it would be, I chose to ask for volunteers to stay,” said Lt. Gen. Valdas Tutkus, Lithuanian Chief of Defense.

Twenty-nine of the 40 soldiers in the platoon chose to continue the mission.

“Without them, we would be stuck,” said Capt. Caroline Pogge, of Company B, 411th Civil Affairs Battalion. “They are the primary personnel security detachment for civil affairs and Provincial Reconstruction Team Wasit. Without them, we are immobile.”

Selecting to continue their deployment showed a lot about their character, according to Pogge.

“To a lot of people, six weeks (the extension was later changed to eight weeks) isn’t much,” said Pogge, a native of Danbury, Conn. “But over here, it’s a long time.”

Word that the Lithuanians had selected to stay was a welcome surprise, according to Col. Peter Baker, commander of the 214th Fires Brigade.

“We are so dependent on them for movement; we didn’t know how we would move the teams that are so vital to the reconstruction effort,” Baker said.

The Soldiers appreciated the fact that the choice was left to them.

“It is important to serve our country, but in some moments it is more important to take care of home and family,” said 1st Lt Gediminas Alisauskas, a platoon commander. “I’m glad to have the chance to choose. All of us had plans for when we got back – most changed them, some couldn’t.”

Being so close to returning home made the choice difficult.

“I had one week left and it felt like I was already home,” Cpl. Rimvydas Stasaitis said. “I had plans, but changed them when I decided to stay. It’s my duty and responsibility. The mission is not finished when our time is finished. If we wanted to finish it, we had to stay.”

For some, the decision to stay was because of the team, a reluctance to leave while comrades stayed. The platoon bonded over the time here, and for some, the decision was whether to leave one family for another.

“We came as one platoon and have friends here,” said Capt. Karolis Morkunas, the platoon’s senior national representative. “We want to stay with our friends.”

Tutkus emphasized Lithuania’s continued commitment to supporting the U.S.

We came in with the U.S. during the war and will stay in support until the end,” he said. “It’s important to be a credible member of NATO and the Coalition. In order to demonstrate our credibility as a country, we have to share the risk.”

As the soldiers of the platoon performed their duties over the past six months, they impacted on all who interacted with them, from their Chief of Defense to the U.S. Soldiers who worked with them from day to day.

“I’m proud of the soldiers here,” Tutkus said. “From the first part, every time I visit soldiers and their commanders, I hear only the best things. There is a light in their eyes. They are motivated, professional, well-trained and competent.”

The civil affairs team members they escorted echoed the sentiments.

“They are phenomenal, professional soldiers,” Pogge said. “They know their job and do it extremely well. Their competence and confidence is obvious as we travel with them.”

The Soldiers who stayed held no grudges against those who chose to leave.

“Some soldiers had losses, maybe their wife was sick and they had small children, so they had to go,” Morkunas said. “They didn’t want to go… Even those who stayed had compelling reasons to go. The section leader (Master Sgt. Andrius Samusevas) has a two-month-old daughter that he has never seen, I have a two-and-a-half month-old daughter that I’ve never seen, but we chose to stay, to see it through.”

The soldiers were optimistic about their final two months, but did not plan to make things permanent.

“It’s ok to stay for two months, but not one day more,” Stasaitis said. “I am getting married in two months and one day, and I can’t reschedule that.”

Link




Lithuanian 1st Lt Gediminas Alisauskas, of LITCON 10, stands guard as U.S. Soldiers and members of Provincial Reconstruction Team Wasit tour a Vo-Tech facility in al-Kut, Iraq, May 12. (U.S. Army photo/Sgt. Daniel T. West)



Lithuanian Sgt. 1st Class Donatas Krivickas, of LITCON 10, maintains security in a market in the town of Dujayli as U.S.civil affairs Soldiers conduct an assessment May 20. (U.S. Army photo/Sgt. Daniel T. West)



Lithuanian Sgt. 1st Class Donatas Krivickas, of LITCON 10, maintains security in a market in the town of Dujayli U.S. civil affairs Soldiers conduct an assessment May 20. (U.S. Army photo/Sgt. Daniel T. West)



Lithuanian Capt. Karolis Morkunas, of LITCON 10, stands near the Lithuanian flag, waiting for an award ceremony to begin at Forward Operating Base Delta, Iraq, May 29. (U.S. Army photo/Sgt. Daniel T. West)



Lithuanian Chief of Defense, Lt. Gen. Valdas Tutkus speaks with soldiers of LITCON 10 at Forward Operating Base Delta, Iraq, May 29, the day they were scheduled to redeploy. The soldiers of LITCON 10 were offered the opportunity to either redeploy or volunteer for a two-month extension of their tour just a week before they were to leave Iraq. Only 11 soldiers of the contingent chose to leave. (U.S. Army photo/Sgt. Daniel T. West)



A Lithuanian soldier of Lithuanian Contingency 10 stands guard over the Lithuanian compound at Forward Operating Base Delta, Iraq, May 29. (U.S. Army photo/Sgt. Daniel T. West)


Link Posted: 6/3/2008 6:02:52 PM EST
Lithuania rules! Looks like those g-36 rifles don't melt in the hot sun like everybody says.
Link Posted: 6/3/2008 6:09:14 PM EST
Well if we have an obamanation after November, the Lithuanians may be the only ones "staying the course"
Link Posted: 6/3/2008 6:11:52 PM EST
ive seen them around with FN2000's too.
Link Posted: 6/3/2008 6:13:16 PM EST
Good story. Most of the former Soviet Republics and the Eastern European Countries that were once under Soviet Control are very Pro-Democracy and Pro-America. These people lived under Communism for almost 50 years and they know how important their freedoms are and are willing to fight to maintain those freedoms. They more than any of us know how important preserving the freedom we have is. It's a real shame that while these people are headed in the right direction half of America want us to head towards Socialism.

I for one say Thank You to every nation and individual fighting alongside our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan. We fight for the same cause.
Link Posted: 6/3/2008 6:14:03 PM EST
God bless our true allies!
Link Posted: 6/3/2008 6:14:27 PM EST
Now that is desert camo.
Link Posted: 6/3/2008 6:14:38 PM EST

Originally Posted By BKC1869:
Good story. Most of the former Soviet Republics and the Eastern European Countries that were once under Soviet Control are very Pro-Democracy and Pro-America. These people lived under Communism for almost 50 years and they know how important their freedoms are and are willing to fight to maintain those freedoms. They more than any of us know how important preserving the freedom we have is. It's a real shame that while these people are headed in the right direction half of America want us to head towards Socialism.

I for one say Thank You to every nation and individual fighting alongside our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan. We fight for the same cause.


i was talking to some georgians and they were telling me they love deploying to iraq, because they eat good, get paid good, and get free internet...
Link Posted: 6/3/2008 6:15:25 PM EST
Good for them.
Link Posted: 6/3/2008 6:17:33 PM EST
Thanks Lithuania...hopefully we're all out of there soon.
Top Top