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The hardest job always falls on the first, Lithuanian military instructor says after the EU Training Mission in Mali




“It is always the most difficult and the most interesting to be the first ones,” said SSG Vidmantas Stramiela at a press conference at the Joint Staff of the Lithuanian Armed Forces, Vilnius, commenting on the European Union-led Training Mission in Mali (EUTM Mali) he has recently returned from. He and colleague SFC Giedrius Vaitukaitis last week retuned to Lithuania after having completed their assignments successfully. They were the first military that the Lithuanian Armed Forces had contributed to EUTM Mali to train the Malian Armed Forces in composition of the Nordic-Baltic Training Team from this April.


Lithuanian military instructor SSG V. Stramiela told that he and his foreign colleagues trained Malian military in weapon handling, firing, self-defence, operation in a military unit, and completion of other actions at the Koulikoro Training Centre.


“We started with basics and gradually proceeded to complex tactical training,” SSG V. Stramiela said.


According to the military instructor, Malian troops were quick to absorb the information delivered, so the work was efficient and small shortfalls occurring due to working language were quickly solved by local interpreters.


“Soldiers in Mali are receptive and motivated,” Lithuanian military instructor shared his impressions from the mission.


Chief of the Joint Staff Brigadier General Vilmantas Tamošaitis who was also present at the press conference underscored that military instructors were not involved in combat actions with regard to the training nature of the EU’s mission.


Members of King Mindaugas Motorised Infantry Battalion SSG V. Stramiela and SFC G. Vaitukaitis were replaced by other two Lithuanian military instructors in EUTM Mali.


At the moment there are 3 servicemembers of the Lithuanian Armed Forces assigned to EUTM Mali: a transportation operations control officer serves in a logistic provision unit at Bamako Airport in Bamako, capital of Mali, apart from the military instructors posted to the Koulikoro Training Centre.


The European Union Training Mission in Mali was the first mission in the continent of Africa that Lithuania committed its troops to. Lithuania is planned to be a part of the mission till mid-2014, i.e. till the mandate of mission expires.


The aim of EUTM Mali is to enhance operational capabilities and activities of the Malian Armed Forces in order to incapacitate it to ensure territorial integrity of the country and to counter attacks of terrorist groups inside the country. Over the last several months EUTM Mali personnel has finished training the first local battalion. The number of the entire EUTM Mali staff is planned to reach up to 500.


Apart from the EU Training Mission Mali Lithuania also takes part in the European Union-led Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) – Operation ATALANTA, a counter-piracy and armed robbery at sea operation off the Somali coast. In total, Lithuania’s military contribution to the EU-led counter-piracy operation will number up to 20.


Through participation in the EU-led multinational operations and missions Lithuania contributes to strengthening the Common Security and Defence Policy and EU multinational rapid crisis response capabilities.


Photos by A.Pliadis (MOD) and V. Stramiela (personal).

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