BEMOWO PISKIE, Poland - Most Americans anticipate the cozy fires, turkey dinners, and football games that are inevitably associated with the Thanksgiving holiday. However, this year, selected Soldiers of Battle Group Poland focused on a very different set of activities. From nighttime land navigation to plunging into a freezing lake, it can be assured that the experience will be a Thanksgiving the Soldiers who participated in the Cold Weather Warfare Training event will never forget.
Hosted by the British Royal Marine Commandos, the Cold Weather Warfare Training event began on Nov. 21, and included approximately fifty Soldiers from the U.K., the United States, Croatia and Romania. This training is held annually for British Soldiers who are deploying to cold weather environments. U.K. Army Soldiers with the 1st Queen's Dragoon, "Eagle Troop" hosted and organized this particular event, which spanned three days and two nights.
"We conducted cold weather training, with the intention of Soldiers performing more efficiently when operating in the cold," said Royal Marine Colour Sgt. Ron Taylor, instructor from the Land Warfare Center in the U.K. "After spending so much time in warm weather environments, it's good for soldiers to learn how to adapt and use this equipment to be able to go harder and longer in this cold weather. It's important to make sure Soldiers are properly equipped and professionally prepared. Preparation is key, I brief the Soldiers on what to expect, which breeds confidence. It was a great idea for the Army to cross train with the Royal Marines to share our knowledge and skills to be able to tackle cold weather climates."
In addition to the various tasks and obstacles Soldiers were required to master, the weather proved itself a formidable force to be overcome. Temperatures dropped as low as 22 F and were exacerbated by biting winds and freezing rain.
"I'm going to admit that I had some reservations from the beginning of the course, because of the unfriendly weather," stated Romanian 1st Lt. Catalin Staret, the Deputy Commander of the Black Bats, Battle Group Poland's Romanian Air Defense Detachment. "But now I have to say that it was really great. It was a unique and demanding experience for me. In Romania, this kind of course is also taking place, but I have never had the opportunity to participate. It was very interesting, informative, and I learned many hands-on survival skills and tips. Working with the British Soldiers was like working with my colleagues. They have been really professional, and have shown devotion and commitment in everything they do. I am glad that I have participated in this course and whenever I get the chance to work with them, I will do it."
The CWWT event developed and tested various survival skills imperative for Soldiers to master in cold weather environments. Tasks included night time maneuvers, land navigation, shelter construction and field food preparation. Soldiers learned how to layer various materials properly to provide maximum warmth, and were tested on different techniques used to treat a victim of hypothermia. Working together, the Soldiers from the four different nations developed new skills, and a renewed camaraderie founded on teamwork, struggle and collective growth.
"I had the opportunity to train with the Royal British Commandos and learn how to survive in cold weather environments," said U.S. Army Spc. Jacob Smith, an American sniper assigned to Battle Group Poland. He continued, "The British are very smart and confident in their ability to work together as a team, and I look forward to working with them in the future."
The crowning event of the three day challenge was a written test, which covered cold weather medical care, principles of survival and navigation techniques. Concluding on Nov. 23, the CWWT event provided Soldiers with an arsenal of increased confidence and valuable knowledge in regard to surviving and fighting in frigid conditions. Complete with invaluable skills, joint force camaraderie and unforgettable memories, the Cold Weather Warfare Training event was a Thanksgiving for the books.