WARSAW, Poland -- Anakonda '16 kicked off with a dynamic opening ceremony punctuated by pomp, circumstance and martial music performed by the Polish army band June 6 at the National Defense University here.
With over 31,000 soldiers from 24 countries in attendance, Antoni Macierewicz, the Polish minister of defense, opened the ceremony by welcoming leaders, distinguished visitors and participating personnel to the sixth Anakonda exercise. Macierewicz described the massive training event as an exercise designed to strengthen military cooperation, cohesion and interoperability among participating nations.
Gen. Mark Milley, the 39th U.S. Army chief of staff; Lt. Gen. Marek Tomaszycki, the Polish armed forces operational commander; and Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the U.S. Army Europe commanding general, also delivered remarks during the ceremony.
"The United States Army and the United States military and really the United States of America have a single purpose in Operation Anakonda," Milley said. "And that is to bring all of us together to demonstrate that we are shoulder to shoulder with the Polish people, we are shoulder to shoulder with the Polish Army and we are shoulder to shoulder with NATO to ensure that all the countries of NATO remain free and independent."
"Europe for 70 years now, and 25 since the fall of the Berlin Wall, have demonstrated how peace and prosperity can flourish under a rule of law open to the same and equal protection for human rights and political freedom for all of its citizens," the chief of staff added.
Tomaszycki emphasized the importance of Eastern and Northern European as well as American and British participation in the exercise.
"Especially important is the participation of the United States, Spanish, British and forces of other countries that decided to take part in this exercise," he said. "However, it would be a mistake not to mention those from partnering countries that is involved in this exercise for the very first time like soldiers from Ukraine, Georgia, Macedonia, Sweden and Finland."
Hodges said the exercise demonstrates American commitment to the region.
"There should be no doubt in anybody's mind about the commitment of the United States in the security and stability in Europe," he said. "We have committed a large number of Soldiers and capabilities to include a significant number of our reserve component Soldiers and our National Guard Soldiers from the States to participate in this exercise. So, in other words, the whole army is involved in Anakonda."
"I am sure we will continue to get better every single day," he added, "and that is only possible because of the leadership by our minister chief of defense and Lt. Gen. Tomaszycki and Lt. Gen. (Miroslaw) Rozanski."
Anakonda 2016, slated to run through June 17, is a Polish national exercise designed to train, exercise and integrate Polish command and force structure into a joint multinational environment.
The massive international exercise is also among USAREUR's premier training events. It demonstrates American, allied and partner defense capabilities to deploy, mass and sustain combat power.
Participating nations include Albania, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United Kingdom as well as the U.S. Participating U.S. military units include the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division Mission Command Element, 173rd Airborne Brigade, 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, 12th Combat Aviation Brigade, 19th Battlefield Coordination Detachment, 66th Military Intelligence Brigade, 30th Medical Brigade, the Joint Multinational Training Command, and U.S. Army Reserve and U.S. Army National Guard units from Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Wisconsin.
The exercise will be held at several locations throughout Poland including Miroslawiec, Biedrusko, Drawski, Wedrzyn, Zagan, Sochaczew, Inowroclaw, Torun, Chelmno, Deba, Trzcianiec, Orzysz, Wegorzewo and Gizycko military training areas.