SIAULIAI AIR BASE, LITHUANIA
SIAULIAI AIR BASE, Lithuania - With hooves that struck like lightning and breath that beat like thunder, Ašvieniai pushed onward – their white manes and skin glistening with the sweat of intense exertion.
Higher and higher the mythical horse twins climbed, pulling behind them the chariot of Saulė – the Lithuanian sun goddess. Her bright rays blinded curious onlookers as she coaxed Ašvieniai onward into the skies above Siauliai Air Base, Lithuania, July 29, 2014.
In an instant, a flash of sunlight seemingly transformed the ancient Lithuanian deities into a massive gray hulk – soaring upward through great banks of fleecy clouds. The sound of Ašvieniai’s hooves replaced by the deafening roar of the C-130J’s four engines.
“Get ready,” shouted U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Tyler Trappe, Headquarters and Headquarters Company troop and jumpmaster, from inside the aircraft. “Check gear!”
Trappe’s voice echoed throughout the interior of the Super Hercules. His commanders were followed by more than a dozen Army and Lithuanian Land Forces Soldiers rising from their seats and inspecting their parachutes. Without a moment’s hesitation, the side door of the C-130 slid open – exposing the passengers to the brutal air current and unforgiving ground below.
Gripping the sides of the door and leaning out into empty space, Trappe signaled to the Soldiers that the landing zone was within reach. Slowly and methodically, the paratroopers marched toward the door – ready to brave the elements in the name of a bilateral training mission.
“Our forward presence in Europe allows us to work with NATO partners and train to meet future security challenges,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Brad Buinicky, 37th Airlift Squadron assistant director of operations of readiness. “It is incredibly beneficial to both the United States and Europe. It allows us to collectively move forward to support and defend our Allies within the region.”
By merging training with Lithuania, the United States and NATO are ready and capable to boost international relations and maintain security throughout the Baltic States and beyond. Like Ašvieniai, the paratroopers aboard the Super Hercules stood committed to honing their skills for the protection of their people.
"These missions are more than just training exercises,” said Buinicky. “They represent a shared commitment to a peaceful, stable and secure Europe.”
Below, the Lithuanian landscape sped by as Trappe reaffirmed the area was safe to jump to. He closed his eyes and breathed a heavy sigh before clasping a strong hand on the first Soldier in line. In a flash, the young paratrooper bolted for the door, tucked his feet and was sucked away into empty space.
“Go, go, go, go,” Trappe shouted as one-by-one his brothers in arms followed suit.
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This work, Crossroads: Ašvieniai’s Voyage, by TSgt Jarad Denton, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.