Allied Spirit, a DEFENDER-Europe 20 linked U.S.-Polish bilateral training exercise, successfully concluded after 15 days of training at Drawsko Pomorskie Training Area, Poland on June 19, 2020.

The exercise, which commenced June 5, 2020, consisted of the following key objectives: conduct a deliberate river crossing with a division-sized element, demonstrate U.S. Army Europe's ability to integrate with joint, alliance and host nation capabilities, and to enable an effective common intelligence operational picture.

Approximately 6,000 U.S. and Polish Soldiers participated in the exercise. Of those were approximately 4,000 U.S. Soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division (Forward) and 3rd Infantry Division, as well as approximately 2,000 Polish soldiers from the 6th Polish Airborne Brigade, 9th Polish Armored Cavalry Brigade and 12th Polish Mechanized Brigade.

Present for the Allied Spirit exercise were the President of Poland Andrzej Duda; General Commander of the Polish Armed Forces Jaroslaw Mika; Brig. Gen. Chris Norrie, commander of 7th Army Training Command; Brig. Gen. Brett Sylvia, commander of 1st Cav. Div. (FWD); and Brig. Gen. Slawomir Dudczack, General Commander of the Polish 12th Mechanized Brigade.

“This training is important for many reasons. It allows us and our NATO allies to demonstrate to the world that we have the capability to train safely in this COVID environment,” Sylvia said. “We’ve gone to great lengths to ensure the safety of this training for our Soldiers, and all the people in the local area. As a result, 100% of the participating Soldiers and civilians were tested to ensure they were COVID free.”

The exercise, modified in response to COVID-19, operated in accordance with the guidance directed by the Department of Defense and the government of Poland. All U.S. Soldiers and civilians involved in the exercise completed a 14-day quarantine and were tested for COVID-19 upon arrival with additional health screenings if necessary.

The water crossing exercise consisted of a bridge crossing constructed by Polish soldiers with the 12th Mech. Bde. The crossing was utilized by the 2nd Arm. Cmbt. Avn. Bde., 3rd Inf. Div., to facilitate the movement of approximately 100 U.S. Bradley Fighting Vehicles and High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles across the river.

Throughout the training event, the NATO Allies were able to combine capabilities while fostering mutual respect for how they tactically complemented each other.

“This is a great chance for Polish soldiers to gain new experience and skills working alongside our U.S. Allies,” Dudczack said. “Polish soldiers have been serving with Allied troops for more than 20 years. The DEFENDER exercise provides a great opportunity for the interoperability and cooperation between our two forces.”

In addition to water crossing events were medical evacuation flight operations performed by the 3rd Cmbt. Avn. Bde., 3rd. Inf. Div., which included hoist airlifts and litter carries to and from a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter.

U.S. Army Europe is planning additional exercises over the next few months. These exercises are slated to utilize many of the original DEFENDER-Europe 20 training objectives to enhance readiness and interoperability between U.S., Allied, and partner militaries.

Exercises like DEFENDER-Europe 20 continue to demonstrate NATO Allies and partners stand stronger together, and the U.S. commitment to NATO is iron clad. 

“Like the rest of the world, COVID-19 has shaped everything we do here as U.S. Army Europe,” Norrie said. “But our Soldiers are great at adapting to every obstacle placed before them, just like they did for the past 245 years. No matter the challenges we face as a nation, the U.S. Army will always answer the call.”