3rd Infantry Division Returns to Ft. Stewart After Operation Blue Giant
Reported By 1SG C.Brock
Alpha Company War Eagles formed for Ceremony on Cottrell Field December 4th. (Photo Credit: 3rdID)
This past Sunday, 3rd Infantry Division’s 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team returned to Ft. Stewart following an eight-month combat deployment to Lithuania. Alpha Company “War Eagles” was the first to touch down on American soil after the end of Operation Blue Giant.
Many Soldiers were glad to be home, but as always, there was work to be done. After a brief rest, Alpha Company formed for December Ceremony that afternoon.
Alpha Company Command Major John LaFlash issued a large number of awards and decorations for his Soldiers' work in the operation. These included a Silver Star with "V" device, a Defense Superior Service Medal, two Bronze Stars with "V" device, two Purple Hearts, and multiple Army Commendation Medals and Army Achievement Medals. Sixty Soldiers were awarded the European Campaign Medal for their participation in Operation Blue Giant.
What had started in April as a Joint NATO security operation countering pro-Russian separatists quickly exploded into a full-scale war. One month after 3rdID Soldiers captured a dirty bomb smuggled into Lithuania by Wagner Group PMCs, Russia invaded the EU member state. Two Russian tank armies rolled into Lithuania from Kaliningrad as VDV paratroopers assaulted key military facilities.
Fighting through the initial chaos and confusion, 3rdID began beating back the Russian invasion week after week. After securing the Baltic Sea island of Panthera, Soldiers redeployed to the continent to face the Russian armored columns threatening to encircle Kaunas and Vilnius.
There, they conducted an airborne assault and met face to face with the enemy onslaught. Bearing some of the hardest fighting, and achieving some of the toughest objectives, War Eagles turned the tide.
According to a redacted report from the NATO Intelligence Fusion Centre, there was a confirmed WMD threat from the Russian forces in-country. Although details are limited, the report suggests Rangers from 3rdID secured a Tochka tactical nuclear weapon Russian forces had smuggled into northern Lithuania prior to their retreat.
Russia has the largest nuclear weapons stockpile in the world, and most of their warheads are deployable from mobile ballistic missiles. While S-2 has been fairly quiet on the matter, defense sector analysts suggest that Russia may have attempted to use a nuclear device as a safeguard against the eventual NATO counter-attack in northern Lithuania.
In late November, NATO initiated a counter-attack on Russian forces remaining in Lithuania, including the 20th Guards Combined Tank Army. 3rdID joined in the offensive, mopping up enemy units in northern Chernarus County. This led to a full Russian withdrawal back into Kaliningrad.
The Kremlin has remained silent on the matter.
While Lithuania is once again quiet, the work of rebuilding will continue into the next year. Casualties and losses to infrastructure were high. NATO estimates that over 3,000 Russian separatists, PMCs, and soldiers died in the conflict. Moscow also lost hundreds of armored vehicles and advanced weaponry in Lithuania.
NATO losses were relatively light, but substantial nonetheless. Over 100 Lithuanian civilians were also killed or wounded in the fighting.
Now that Russian aggression has been checked in the Baltic region, 3rdID is gearing up for home station FTX. While there are currently no plans for an overseas deployment, as part of the 18th Airborne Corps, 3rdID stands ready to meet and overcome future threats.
Major LaFlash said this: “Outstanding job! We’re ending 2022 on a very high note in terms of our combat operations. Alpha Company achieved my intent for the operation and accomplished all mission objectives. Wrapping that up, we’re now stateside moving into our FTX phases.”