WROCLAW, Poland- As a DJ's music blared over the sports complex filled with a variety of food trucks, apparel tents and fans of all ages, a group of soldiers assigned to 3rd Battalion, 29th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, strolled through the crowd enjoying the tailgate atmosphere at Olympic Stadium here, April 22, 2017.
For their game against the Austrian Raiders, the Wroclaw Panthers official invited soldiers from 3rd Bn., 29th FA Reg., 3rd ABCT, 4th ID as part of the inauguration of their newly renovated football stadium. Having U.S. Soldiers participate in local events helps strengthen relationships between the soldiers and the host nation's communities.
Maj. Daniel Sundberg, Executive Officer, 3rd Bn., 29th FA Reg., 3rd ABCT, 4th ID, performed the honorary coin toss to kick off Saturday night's match between the two undefeated teams.
"It was an honor, of course, and certainly a privilege," said Sundberg. "They seemed to really appreciate our presence in Poland and valued our perspective and opinions on their renovated stadium and the quality of the play of their team."
"As for the coin toss, I just didn't want to screw that up! Cool experience," he said.
During the nine-month deployment in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve, 3rd Bn., 29th FA Reg., and their Polish allies are making strides toward interoperability by continuously training together and implementing innovative solutions to common problems. This U.S. led effort in Eastern Europe demonstrates the U.S. commitment to strengthening the defensive and deterrent capabilities.
After relocation from Drawsko Pomorskie Training Area to Zagan, Poland, the scenery might have changed but the mission focus to sustain readiness is still a top priority for 3rd Bn., 29th FA Reg.
"I think it's huge for the soldiers to be able to take a break and participate in this event," said Capt. Joe Roberts, Commander, Bravo Battery, 3rd Bn., 29th FA Reg., 3rd ABCT, 4th ID. "I think it's huge for their energy level, their morale and their attitudes. We've been working so hard and tireless for a long time now, and to get invited to something like this and to get a chance to see football, I know the soldiers are really excited to go."
Roberts also discussed the significance of building a relationship not only with the Polish Army but also with their local communities.
"Personally I think is very important, because if we're going to be here and we're going to be involved in this partnered relationship of maintaining our way of life for Poles and Americans together, and if we're going to be a team, then we need to understand each other," Roberts said.
A former offensive lineman, 2nd Lt. Taylor Harrison, Platoon Leader, Bravo Battery, 3rd Bn., 29th FA Reg., 3rd ABCT, 4th ID, also attended Saturday's games.
"I played for the United States Military Academy at West Point, and played for Coach Ellerson," Harrison said. "We ran the triple option and I was the right guard so we did a lot of smash mouth football."
"So with that being said, it's always enjoyable watching other people playing the game I love and I grew up playing my entire life," he added.
Unfortunately for the Wroclaw Panthers, the Austrian Raiders secured the victory soiling the inauguration game, however, each soldier along with the dedicated fans enjoyed watching some American football.
U.S. Army Europe is uniquely positioned in its 51st country area of responsibility to advance American strategic interests in Europe and Eurasia. The relationships we build during more than 1,000 theater security cooperation events in more than 40 countries each year lead directly to support for multinational contingency operations around the world, strengthen regional partnership and enhance global security.