Articles

These 7 photos reveal how secret warriors invaded West Virginia

After Russia's incursion into Georgia several years ago and the covert operation to take over the Crimea in Ukraine in 2014, the former Soviet Republics along the Baltic coast view the Russian bear as an increasing threat.


More fearful than ever that a replay of Sevastopol could happen in Vilnius or Tallinn, troops from the Baltic states have been working ever closer with the American military to hone their skills, forge stronger bonds and develop tactics and protocols to defend themselves if the Spetsnaz drops in on their doorstep.

While American troops have been deploying recently for joint exercises with NATO's northern allies in Europe, some of the Baltic countries' most specialized troops have been coming to the U.S. for real-world training.

In February a joint team of U.S. special operators from the 10th Special Forces Group, National Guard soldiers and commandos from Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia infiltrated a 500,000 acre range in the mountains of West Virginia to practice covert ops, kick in some doors and do some snake-eater sh*t.

Dubbed Range Runner 2017, the exercise includes all the facets of special operations warfare, including counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, stability operations, foreign internal defense and unconventional warfare and allows for dynamic infiltration routes, including water, air and land with support from fixed wing, rotary wing and water rescue groups, the military says.

So how awesome was this joint commando exercise? Take a look.

1. Special operators get some assaulter practice

Estonian Special Operations Force soldiers, along with U.S. Army Special Operations Forces Soldiers with 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) and soldiers of the West Virginia National Guard, quickly move to assault a building containing high-value adversary targets during an air-assault training exercise as part of Exercise Ridge Runner Feb. 23, 2017 in West Virginia. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jeff Smith)

2. The joint commando teams work on infiltration via horseback

A U.S. Army Special Operations Forces Soldier assigned to 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), conducts an infiltration movement on horseback during Exercise Ridge Runner Feb. 12, 2017 in West Virginia. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Connor Mendez)

3. The special operators work together on sensitive sight exploitation methods

U.S. Army Special Operations Forces Soldiers assigned to 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), search through a cabin room as they conduct sensitive sight exploitation training during Exercise Ridge Runner Feb. 18, 2017 in West Virginia. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Connor Mendez)

4. They even go through the bad guy's trash...

U.S. Special Operations Forces search for evidence during a sensitive sight exploitation training event as part of Exercise Ridge Runner Feb. 18, 2017 in West Virginia. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Christopher Stevenson)

5. The special operations troops are hounded by local forces who track their movement

A canine unit with the West Virginia State Police assists U.S. Special Operations Forces and interagency joint partners with the West Virginia and Pennsylvania National Guard in partnering with special operations forces soldiers from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in an escape and evasion training exercise event as part of Exercise Ridge Runner Feb. 23, 2017 in West Virginia.

6. The Special Forces soldiers use old-school methods to pass messages without radios

U.S. Special Operations Forces with 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) conduct a message pickup with the aid of a DHC-6 Twin Otter airplane as part of Exercise Ridge Runner Feb. 6, 2017 in West Virginia. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Christopher Stevenson)

7. Once they've gotten what they wanted, the commandos exfil via helicopter

Estonian Special Operations Force soldiers, along with U.S. Army Special Operations Forces Soldiers with 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) and soldiers of the West Virginia National Guard, quickly move toward an aircraft for exfiltration during an air-assault training exercise as part of Exercise Ridge Runner Feb. 23, 2017 in West Virginia. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jeff Smith)