JAWORZE TRAINING AREA, Poland -- North Carolina Army National Guard's Griffin battalion Soldiers met, learned and shared their artillery knowledge with their Polish army counterparts here during Exercise Anakonda earlier this month.
The Polish army invited the 5th Battalion, 113th Field Artillery Regiment, Soldiers to get a first-hand experience with their weapon systems as well as the Polish army to get a first-hand experience with the Griffin battalion's High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS).
"It was outstanding seeing what an ally uses as a weapons system and learning about their tactics and techniques," said U.S. Army Maj. Chris Rosehart, the 5-113th FAR Operations Officer.
The day began preparing to convoy the light multiple rocket launchers on a six-wheeled, armored 23-foot-long U.S. Army medium tactical vehicle. The launcher chief, the crew and vehicle commander, stands out the hatch allowing maximum visibility guiding the team safely. The 333-horsepower engines roar down the road, like the battalion's mascot, as the massive vehicles travel to the training area.
Their destination, Jaworze Training Area (JTA), is a base in the Polish countryside, where their hosts have several of their own heavy weapons on display including a 152mm AHS DANA, a self-propelled artillery vehicle, and a 122mm WR-40 Langusta self-propelled multiple rocket launcher.
The convoy thundered beside the Polish vehicles. Language barriers dissolved quickly as Griffin Soldiers climbed aboard the giant Polish weapons systems. Guard members shared knowledge from years of combat experience, from supporting Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraq Freedom as well as stateside training, with their Polish counterparts.
Polish Soldiers with several combat deployments, supporting Operation Enduring Freedom and other NATO-supported operations, returned the favor assisting the NCNG Soldiers with aiming or simulated loading of the huge Polish heavy artillery.
Dozens of Polish soldiers swarmed the 5-113th FAR's prime piece of equipment, the HIMARS. Interpreters were swamped with questions about range, aiming, command and control, lethality and interoperability. Griffin Soldiers simulated the loading, aiming and firing the six telephone-pole-sized rockets in a few minutes.
"It was great to be around other nation's soldiers; most people never get a chance to experience that," said U.S. Army Sgt. Phillip Hughes, a truck driver with the 5-113th FAR.
As midday arrived, the Poles invited their new comrades to share a meal at their field dining facility. Several unit shoulder insignias and challenge coins, a small coin or medallion bearing an insignia or emblem carried by an organization's members or presented to distinguished visitors, were shared and vigorous embraces were given.
This meeting was the beginning step of the continuous communication and coordination needed for a successful live fire exercise during AN16, and if needed, real-world cooperation during a future operation.
"Integration is incredibly important! Each (of us) has different practices and we found (out) we had many similarities, but small differences can lead to big complications," said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Earle Pope, the 5-113th FAR Fires Direction Officer.
AN16 is a premier multinational drill seeking to train, exercise, and integrate the Polish national command and force structure into a joint multinational environment.