By Sgt. A.M. LaVeyNovember 2, 2015
RZESZOW, Poland--U.S. Army paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade, along with allies from the Polish army's 21st Podhale Rifles Brigade conducted a combined public event here Oct 27, 2015, showcasing the strength of the partnership between the two nations.
Rzeszow, the largest city of southeast Poland and home to the 21st Podhales Rifles, hosted U.S. paratroopers from Company D, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, during the fourth day of Operation Bayonet Thrust, the multinational convoy bringing the Americans back home to Caserma Ederele, Vicenza, Italy, after a five-month rotation in Lithuania, in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve, the U.S.'s continued commitment to European security.
The Polish, with the assistance with both Polish and American military and civil leaders, invited the 173rd to stop in the Rzeszow, in the midst of conducting three concurrent 2,600 kilometer convoys, to show off some of their military hardware and engage the local communities.
"This is an excellent opportunity for the Polish people to speak and meet with both groups of soldiers," said Polish Cpl. Alan Sztorc, a reconnaissance team leader for 1st Battalion, 21st Podhales. "The public needs to see that the NATO alliance is active and that our combined cooperation is real."
John Law, deputy chief of mission, U.S. Embassy to Warsaw, agrees.
"Hundreds of people are here in this square and they are happy to see American Soldiers," he said. "They want to learn more about the cooperation between our two forces. These are people who care about the alliance and want to do their part to strengthen our relationship."
The paratroopers from the 173rd are almost constantly training in Poland and rotating through the region. Most recently the paratroopers from the brigade teamed with Polish troops to conduct Exercises Saber Strike and Baltic Operations, two-American hosted exercises that took place in Poland.
"We have constant training between the Americans and Polish soldiers, because that is how strong this NATO alliance is - it's unbreakable, unshakeable," said Law. "But the alliance between the U.S. and Poland is about more than just military training - it about our people and our history together. We have an alliance between our people that goes back centuries. Poland was there for us in our Revolutionary War, and Poland was there for us in Iraq and Afghanistan. And now America is here for Poland - it's important that all Poles know that."
Sztorc, who has been deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan four times with American Soldiers agrees that the constant combined training sets each army up for future success.
"It's important for us to train together, because each time we learn something new," he said. "Strength comes through training, and events like this show that the U.S. and Poland are in synch and have each other's backs in all matters."
The event, held in the Market Square, in front of city hall, brought hundreds of onlookers, including many schoolchildren and Polish army cadets, who surrounded soldiers of both nations, checked out their equipment, asked questions and took photos.
"Community events like this are an important part of what the 173rd does here in Europe," said Capt. Helaman Fepuleai, commander, Co. D. "As a forwardly-deployed unit here in Europe, we like meeting with the people and our allied forces on a personal level. We want to show our commitment to a strong Europe and literally stand side-by-side with our allies."
The 173rd Airborne Brigade, based in Vicenza, Italy, is the U.S. Army Contingency Response Force in Europe and is capable of deploying ready forces to conduct the full range of military operations across the U.S. European, Africa and Central Commands' areas of operations within 18 hours.