RUKLA, Lithuania (Sept. 2, 2015) -- Members of the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs visited troops in Rukla, Lithuania, Sept. 2.

The visit was part of an overall tour of several military engineering efforts throughout the Baltic region currently being conducted by various units of U.S. Army Europe Command, or USAREUR. 

The primary focus was to learn more about the military construction requirements associated with European reassurance initiatives and the impacts of European infrastructure consolidation on commanders and units assigned to USAREUR.

U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, along with his fellow committee members, observed engineering efforts, received briefs from unit commanders and talked with Soldiers regarding their experiences serving in Eastern Europe. 

Capt. Matt Westcott, a native of Columbus, Georgia, also commander of Alpha Company, 54th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 173rd Airborne Brigade, provided the day's main briefs. Westcott's unit has been tasked with key engineering efforts within Lithuania. 

"Today we conducted an in-brief for Congressional Delegation Dent to explain the capabilities of Alpha Company and what we can do to improve the drop-zone here in Rukla," Westcott said. "It was bilateral between us and the Lithuanians; explaining how were going to work together, within a month's time, to be able to uproot all the trees, stumps and all other hazards on the drop-zone." 

"The brief was about enhancing the overall safety of the paratroopers. It went really well, and it was very informative," Westcott said.

The committee members also partook in lunch with the troops during their visit, affording service members a unique occasion to talk candidly with government officials. 

"It was an excellent opportunity to see members of the House of Representatives here on ground," said 1st Lt. Justin Rojek, a native of Du Quoin, Illinois, who is the operations commander for Task Force Stilwell, 39th Transportation Battalion (Movement Control), 16th Sustainment Brigade. "I think that for most of my Soldiers, this was the first time they have ever met or spoken with congressmen."

"A few of our Soldiers were from the same states as the representatives, and were able to have direct one-on-one conversations. It was really great camaraderie," Rojek said. 

The bilateral efforts of NATO service members working to bolster operational capability throughout the Baltic region continues to expand with each troop rotation. With continued support from Congress and the resilience of those in uniform, this indelible theme can only progress.


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