The 1st Cavalry Division, based at Fort Hood in Texas, was deployed in Adazi, not far from the Latvian capital of Riga. 150 soldiers used five M1A2 Abrams tanks, as well as 11 Bradley Fighting Vehicles in a training demonstration.
The commander of the 1st Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division, John Di Giambattista said, "This is more than just a training mission. This is more than just a trip across the Atlantic; this is more than a multinational training exercise. This is how we demonstrate our nations' commitment to reassure our NATO allies," Reuters report.
Latvians, as well as their Baltic neighbors and Poland have welcomed the deployment of the troops and tanks as a deterrent to the perceived threat of Russia. This is one of the largest placements of US military forces into part of the former Soviet Union.
Martins Liberts, who is the Commander of the Latvian Infantry Brigade, said that it was good for his country’s army to work with up to date military equipment.
"To be honest, since independence, we have not had the chance to work with tanks as allies, but we will do that now. It will be a unique experience," he said, according to Reuters.
“This is a demonstration of our solidarity and resolve,” said former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the summit in Cardiff in early September. "Should you even think of attacking one ally, you will be facing the whole alliance,” the former Danish Prime Minister added.
The Baltic States have been among the most vocal advocates of NATO strengthening in the region, but the organization is bound by a 1997 agreement with Russia, which bars it from placing permanent bases in Lithuania, Latvia or Estonia. This can be circumvented by staging constant rotations of “exercises” that can in practice amount to the same thing.