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September 2, Minister of National Defence Rasa Juknevičienė met with Adjutant General of the Pennsylvania National Guard Maj Gen J. L. Wright currently on visit in Lithuania.

In the meeting the Minister thanked for the attention the Pennsylvania National Guard committed to Lithuania and the Lithuanian Armed Forces. Long-term cooperation with the Pennsylvania National Guard is the most active link of strategic partnership of Lithuania and USA which is maintained via a variety of support programs, exercises, and other projects helping Lithuania to develop national defence capabilities necessary for participation in international operations, to buy military equipment and to train personnel. „It an important cooperation to us that we value greatly,” Minister of National Defence R. Juknevičienė said.

Lithuanian Minister thanked Maj Gen J. L. Wright for the decision of her country to send around 150 troops of the Pennsylvania National Guard to take part in the „Sabre Strike” exercise to be hosted by Latvia in October. Such a numerous delegation of US troops will take part in a Baltic State-hosted exercise for the first time. The guest General also informed R. Juknevičienė about the intention of the Pennsylvania National Guard to send participants to the multinational exercise „Amber Hope” that will be held in Lithuania in 2011.

In the meeting multinational operation in Afghanistan was addressed, the joint project of Lithuania and the Pennsylvania National Guard, Police Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team, to enter operation in Ghor this November was touched upon. The Lithuanian-led Chaghcharan Provincial Reconstruction Team is a multinational unit. „Lithuania already has experience of cooperation between representatives of Denmark, Croatia, Japan, Ukraine, and other countries, therefore formation of such a joint group will become a part of a finely tuned mechanism “, the Minister said.

Currently two soldiers of the Pennsylvania National Guard serve in the National Support Element of the Lithuanian-led Chaghcharan PRT, the option of delegating one more soldier is considered.

The Minister also thanked the Pennsylvania National Guard for the support to strengthening defence institutions of Lithuania, especially National Defence Volunteer Force. R.Juknevičienė noted that the experience of the Pennsylvania National Guard would be of great value to Lithuania in addressing the point of organization of army reserve.

Lithuanian Defence Minister and the US General met three times within a year. Last meeting of the officials took place in the United States of America in April.

In the meeting at the Ministry of National Defence Adjutant General of the Pennsylvania National Guard Maj Gen J. L. Wright awarded Minister R.Juknevičienė with the Medal for Commendable Service to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for active cooperation in developing cooperation of the Lithuanian Armed Forces and the Pennsylvania National Guard.

Adjutant General of the Pennsylvania National Guard Maj Gen J. L. Wright came to Lithuania by invitation of the Lithuanian Armed Forces, it is her farewell visit before the approaching end of term in the present position.

During the visit till the 4th of September the US General will also meet with the Chief of Defence of Lithuania Maj Gen Arvydas Pocius, Chief of Joint Staff Brig Gen Algis Vaičeliūnas, Commander Lithuania Air Force Brig Gen Artūras Leita, Commander Lithuanian Land Force Maj Gen Jonas Vytautas Žukas, Commander Lithuanian National Defence Volunteer Forces Lt Col Romualdas Moldaris, Commander of the Lithuanian Riflemen’s Union Col Antanas Plieskis.

Lithuania and the Pennsylvania National Guard have been developing cooperation for 17 years. During that period over 300 of various military events were organised for Lithuanian and troops and members of the Pennsylvania National Guard.

The Pennsylvania National Guard is composed of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard and the Pennsylvania Air National Guard. It is the largest national guard in the USA. Service in the Pennsylvania National Guard is not the main occupation for its members who also have civilian jobs. However, it is a high readiness unit that fought in every war that USA has ever been involved in, and usually made the majority of combat capabilities. In 2006 the Pennsylvania National Guard marked its 370th anniversary.

Units of the Pennsylvania National Guard are components of the active US reserve. National Guard may be mobilised for active duty in case of war or any other case by order of the Congress, the President or Defence Secretary, to supplement regular forces.