Cheers, tears for U.S. Army convoy in Europe

Story highlights

  • 1,100-mile convoy designed to reassure allies of U.S. commitment
  • Convoy moving through six European countries
  • "It makes a difference when you see U.S. soldiers parked in your parking lot," captain says

(CNN)A convoy of U.S. Army armored vehicles is drawing crowds, cheers and tears as it makes an 1,100-mile journey from the Baltics through Poland and the Czech Republic to Germany.

The trek is being made by troops from the 3rd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment and is dubbed a "Dragoon Ride" after the unit's nickname, the Dragoons.
    It is designed to show solidarity to allies in the wake of recent Russian actions in Ukraine and Crimea that have Eastern Europe on edge.
    "The engagements will provide a highly visible demonstration of U.S. commitment to the residents in each of the nations and the resolve of NATO as an alliance," according to a Pentagon statement.
    According to reports from the route, it seems to be delivering on that.
    "This really means a lot to us. We see that we are not alone, that there is someone to defend us," Zdzislaw Narel, 60, told The Associated Press as the convoy made a stop in Bialystok, Poland .
    "I've read about the former times. For me, what's happening now is a little scary. I think it (the American presence) makes people feel safer," Viktorija Maciulyte, 18, told Stars and Stripes newspaper at a stop in Panevezys, Lithuania.
    Troops say they can see the effects, too.
    "The older people start getting emotional. I had one lady came up to me crying," Spc. John Zagozdon, 25, told Stripes. "They were all really grateful."
    "It makes a difference when you see U.S. soldiers parked in your parking lot," Capt. Jon Challgren is quoted as saying in the Stripes report.
    The convoy, which began on Saturday, is expected to take 11 days to its end at Rose Barracks in Vilseck, Germany, about 40 miles from the Czech border.
    It is being supported by NATO military units and U.S. Air Force planes and Army helicopter units for reconnaissance and resupply, according to an Army statement.