US, Polish paratroopers find common ground, spark critical thinking
February 24, 2014
KRAKOW, Poland--American and Polish paratroopers met for a workshop to discuss airborne operational planning here Feb. 19 and 20.
The American 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne) paratroopers shared the doctrine, terminology and procedures that go into planning air and land portions of the brigade's forced-entry capabilities with their partners from the Polish army's 6th Airborne Brigade.
The two units also shared best practices relating to the support that is required to prepare for airborne operations: military intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance methods.
"Such training is important - in the current environment it is almost inconceivable that our forces would be employed without the aid of allied partners," said Maj. Jeremy D. Hartung, the 173rd's brigade intelligence officer. "Understanding each other's capabilities and limitations will help us be better planners and executors in any future coalition operations."
The 173rd Airborne is U.S. Army Europe's Contingency Response Force, capable of projecting forces to conduct the full of range of military operations across the United State European, Central and African Command areas of responsibility.
The 6th Brigade is a spiritual descendent from the Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade through its named patron, Polish army Maj. Gen. Stanislaw Sosabowski, who commanded the 1st during the Operation Market Garden. Market Garden, a World War II airborne operation, featured more than 41,000 allied paratroopers from the Poland, the United Kingdom and the U.S.A., who secured bridges in the Netherlands in the fight against the Nazis.
The two partners came not only to share operational planning methods, but to learn from each other as well.
"Being a similar organization -- an airborne brigade - the Polish unit encounters many of the same training and operational challenges that confront the 173rd," said Hartung. "But given their different frame of reference they have come up with solutions to these problems that likely would never have even occurred to American paratroopers."
Some of 6th's unique capabilities include an organic free-fall parachute unit and the ability to tandem parachute a non-airborne qualified specialist into an operation.
"This workshop sparked a kind of critical thinking about the way we do business," said Hartung. "That spark can sometimes be difficult to achieve without leaving your home base and your customary ways of doing things."
This isn't the first time that the two joint forces have met and trained together, being in close proximity since the 173rd's reactivation as the Army's strategic response unit in Europe.
"Walking around headquarters you'll see many shared pictures and mementos between the 6th Brigade and us," said Maj. John W. Merkel, 173rd's brigade aviation officer and the head of brigade's military-to-military engagement program
"We share a close proximity geographically," said Maj. Nathan B. Williams, operations officer for the 173rd's Grafenwoehr, Germany-based 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment. "The fact that we are so close to them makes it a very beneficial and conducive relationship - one that we can sustain over a long period of time."
Not only did the allied paratroopers discuss theory, but on the second day of the workshop the two units conducted a partnership jump into the 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command's Grafenwoehr Training Area.
"One of the things that we want to do is to forge a continued relationship -- so we offered up a partnered jump in order to set the stage for the ongoing partnership that we plan to continue," said Williams. "We share a similar history and a similar culture -- as far as being in the airborne -- so it's important that we learn from one another and we do that by doing events together like this."
The 6th Brigade is excited to be training with the 173rd, said Polish army Capt. Marcin Gil, the brigade's spokesman. "We have a previous history many years ago and we are look forward to more events in the future."
The two brigades do have multiple future partnership training scheduled for later this year, including hosting a second workshop with Polish army parachute riggers and airborne planners in Italy, as well as joint live-fire training, a reconnaissance troop competition and allied airfield seizure operations in Poland.
"This small workshop has wider implications and is a kind of a stepping stone," said Williams. "We are strengthening the lines of communication between our two units and it will allow us to develop the relationships needed to do larger operations and training events in the future."