ZAGAN, Poland - The President of Poland formally welcomed American Soldiers during a ceremony at Karlike Range here Jan. 30, 2017.
The ceremony, which featured the official uncasing of the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team (Iron Brigade), 4th Infantry Division's unit colors, culminated with a combined arms live-fire exercise between the two nations.
Polish President Andrzej Duda welcomed the Americans, by calling it a "historical moment".
"Thirty years ago, here in Zagan, we had another Army here," said Duda. "We felt like we were in bondage. Today, we have allies, here in Zagan, that symbolize freedom and security," he said. "You are very much welcome here."
The brigade, consisting of nearly 3,500 troops from Fort Carson, Colorado, and close to 2,700 pieces' heavy equipment, arrived in Poland earlier this month as part of a continuous, "heel to toe" troop rotations to bolster ties with NATO allies. U.S. forces have been training in Poland since 2014.
The American forces spent the month training and getting certified in Poland. Next month the brigade will begin to rotate through other NATO countries for training and exercises.
"Last month, our unit voluntarily cased our colors to signify that we were leaving family and friends to serve here," said Col. Christopher Norrie, commander, 3rd Armored Bgde, Combat Team, 4th In. Div. "Those same colors will be unfurled here this morning, signifying not only our service in Atlantic Resolve but also a visible and incredible commitment of our nations' commitment to our allies and the power of this exceptional team of teams, fully ready to take action, if needed, to preserve our shared interest in security and peace in this vital part of the world."
After the Iron Brigade's colors were uncased, the American and Polish forces conducted the first, of what will be many training events between the two nations. "Today's exercises are the first test of the capabilities of the allied army," said Polish Army spokesman, Maj. Artur Pinkowski, in a pre-released statement.
The exercise consisted of a motorized infantry platoon, made up of both Polish and American forces, in the defense, having to temporarily withdrawal until support from American and Polish tanks could come to their defense and vanquish the enemy.
The joint live fire exercise was designed to be a show of force of the capabilities of the alliance.
"This exercise will express the will of the alliance on anyone who expresses harm to our shared interest and our way of life," said Norrie.
For the American forces, the welcome ceremony served to strengthen the trans-Atlantic bond that began over 240 years ago, when a Polish noblemen named Casimir Pulaski came to America to help in the cause of the American Revolutionary War.
"The armed forces of our great nations, are embarking on a whole new level of cooperation, collaboration, and preparation to defend every inch of allied territory together," said Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commander, U.S. Army Europe.
Hodges said that the joint training the two nations would embark on would serve to integrate the two army's together until they are ready to fight as one.
Hodges went on to say that the cooperation between the two forces would span the full spectrum of military defense.
"Our forces will serve as pillars of confidence as we strengthen the other crucial elements of deterrence and defense, including countering disinformation, cyber-attacks, hybrid warfare and covert threats," said Hodges.
In April, 800 more American troops will arrive in Poland to train alongside the Polish 15th Mechanized Brigade, while British, Canadian and German forces will begin training in the Baltic states.
"It will not always be easy and there will be challenge, but already with the presence of these forces, we can already feel a sense of security upon which peace and prosperity for our peoples depend," said Hodges.