By Sgt. Brian Godette, 382nd Public Affairs DetachmentMay 21, 2014
DRAWSKO-POMORSKIE, Poland - Soldiers from the U.S. Army's 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade teamed up with their NATO allies in the Polish Army's 6th Airborne Brigade May 20 at a Drawsko-Pomorskie training area to present a static display of military weapons and equipment for Polish students in the local community.
More than 40 children, ages 6 through 9, attended the event to get a firsthand look at the two military units' soldiers and gear.
"We have a static display of the weapons and vehicles that each of the armies have and it gives a chance for the kids to come out and see them, get some hands on and just have a fun day," said Staff Sgt. Donald Harris, the senior U.S. Army noncommissioned officer attending the event.
Approximately 600 paratroopers from the brigade are in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, as part of an unscheduled land forces exercise to demonstrate commitment to NATO obligations and sustain interoperability with allied forces.
In an exchange of best practices, the 173rd has been training closely with Polish paratroopers on security patrols, airborne operations and weapons qualification. The day's community event combined much of the equipment used in those collaborative trainings to show to the Polish children.
"I feel [this event] very beneficial," Harris said. "It shows their civilian population that we are a friendly force and here to work with them."
Several stations with a mix of U.S. and Polish paratroopers were set up for the bus full of children, ready to discuss the equipment and its proper use.
The children's excitement was clear to the paratroopers. Hurrying off their buses, the boys and girls frantically ran toward the nearest open station. After introducing themselves -- in Polish -- to several U.S. Army Soldiers, the kids, teachers and parents continued to visit each station at will.
"It gives the kids a chance to see different things the Army utilizes and a chance to have fun," said Polish army Pvt. 1st Class Marek Kapusta, who participated in the event.
The weapons and equipment ranged from vehicles like a heavy wrecker and a high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle, or Humvee, rifles and machine guns, and to ghillie suits used to hide snipers from enemy forces.
The event was not only beneficial and entertaining to the children, but also to some of the Polish and U.S. paratroopers involved, who also got to survey the different weapons and equipment.
"The Polish [soldiers] have their weapons out here today and we have our stuff so they can correspond, and see the differences," Harris said.
The unified forces community engagement event proved to be a success with the young children, who chanted goodbye and thank you as they lined up to board their buses at the end of their field trip.
The collaboration with U.S. and Polish forces is scheduled to continue in rotations through the coming months.
The 173rd Airborne Brigade, based in Vicenza, Italy, is the Army Contingency Response Force in Europe, and is capable of projecting forces to conduct the full of range of military operations across the United States European, Central and Africa Commands areas of responsibility.
"This is my second rotation out here doing things with the Americans and everything is going good," said Kapusta.