U.S. Army Sgt. Bradley Taylor (left) and U.S. Army Sgt. Emmanuel Biney-Anim interact with local residents during a static display at “Powidz Days,” a community arts and crafts event in Powidz, Poland, July 10, 2021. Taylor and Biney-Anim are healthcare specialists assigned to the Pennsylvania Guard’s 108th Medical Company Area Support from Allentown, Pennsylvania.
1 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Army Sgt. Bradley Taylor (left) and U.S. Army Sgt. Emmanuel Biney-Anim interact with local residents during a static display at “Powidz Days,” a community arts and crafts event in Powidz, Poland, July 10, 2021. Taylor and Biney-Anim are healthcare specialists assigned to the Pennsylvania Guard’s 108th Medical Company Area Support from Allentown, Pennsylvania. (Photo Credit: Sgt. 1st Class Shane Klestinski) VIEW ORIGINAL
U.S. Army Sgt. Rose Georges leads a group of 41 recipients of the Pope John Paul II Scholarship and their chaperones during a tour of Forward Operating Site Powidz, Poland, July 13, 2021. Georges is an HR specialist deployed with the Florida Guard’s 50th Regional Support Group from Homestead, Florida.
2 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Army Sgt. Rose Georges leads a group of 41 recipients of the Pope John Paul II Scholarship and their chaperones during a tour of Forward Operating Site Powidz, Poland, July 13, 2021. Georges is an HR specialist deployed with the Florida Guard’s 50th Regional Support Group from Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Sgt. 1st Class Shane Klestinski) VIEW ORIGINAL
U.S. Army Pfc. Rebekah Rodriguez (foreground, left) and U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ashley Peralta, both medics deployed with the 108th Medical Company Area Support, enjoy playing with local kids during a static display at a “Kupala Night” community event in Powidz, Poland, June 21, 2021. The 108th MCAS is from Allentown, Pennsylvania.
3 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Army Pfc. Rebekah Rodriguez (foreground, left) and U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ashley Peralta, both medics deployed with the 108th Medical Company Area Support, enjoy playing with local kids during a static display at a “Kupala Night” community event in Powidz, Poland, June 21, 2021. The 108th MCAS is from Allentown, Pennsylvania. (Photo Credit: Sgt. 1st Class Shane Klestinski) VIEW ORIGINAL

As the COVID-19 pandemic put the world on lockdown throughout most of 2020 – and well into 2021 – people longed to return to regular routines and a sense of normalcy.

The COVID pandemic still presents significant concerns for many countries today, but in Poland, conditions have improved enough to allow some return to pre-pandemic normalcy. This means that deployed Soldiers at Forward Operating Site Powidz, Poland, and other FOS locations throughout the region, have been fortunate enough to interact with local communities in ways they previously couldn’t.

“Community events with the Army’s participation are great ice breakers to help local residents get to know the U.S. Soldiers in the neighborhood,” said Robert Czechorowski, director of Powidz’s Dom Kultury (community center).

On June 8th, Soldiers assigned to the Florida Guard’s 50th Regional Support Group and Michigan Guard’s 1225th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion visited the Gniezno Special Educational Center in Gniezno, Poland, in celebration of Children’s Day. Language barriers did not get in the way of Soldiers and children having fun as they played soccer, shot basketballs, and raced down a bouncy slide.

“Going out and participating in community events builds a community relationship between the U.S. Army and the local population,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Jonathan Minix, command sergeant major for the 1225th CSSB from Detroit, Michigan. “By doing so, we form and strengthen bonds in ways that help people relate and understand each other.”

Later on June 21st, Soldiers deployed with the Pennsylvania Guard’s 108th Medical Company Area Support, conducted a static display at a “Kupała Night” event for children and families in Powidz, Poland. The display featured a Humvee 2-CT ambulance and various pieces of military gear that attendees could wear.

“Sometimes there’s a certain stigma attached to the military, but coming out here, playing with the kids, and just having a good time shows that we’re normal people,” said Army Staff Sgt. Ashley Peralta, a medic and squad leader with the 108th MCAS from Allentown, Pennsylvania. “The kids really liked putting the gear on and seeing how it felt.”

The 108th MCAS made another public appearance on July 10th, when its Soldiers attended “Powidz Days,” an arts and crafts fair at Powidz’s community center.

“It was very meaningful for me because we got to interact with a lot of kids and families,” said Army Sgt. Emmanuel Biney-Anim, a healthcare specialist assigned to the 108th MCAS. “When I saw everyone smiling and having fun, it made me happy that I came to do this event.”

Recently, FOS Powidz hosted 41 recipients of the Pope John Paul II Scholarship and their chaperones on July 13. The group participated in a tour that began with a Q&A session about Army life in the base chapel, followed by a static display conducted by the 108th MCAS, and then they learned about flying an AH-64 Apache helicopter during a talk with Army Capt. Danny Davis. Davis is a pilot deployed with the 1-1 Attack Battalion, 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, from Fort Riley, Kansas.

The students were also introduced to a variety of recovery vehicles used by the 428th Transportation Company, an Army Reserve unit from Jefferson City, Missouri. After experiencing the view from behind the wheel of those vehicles, the students ate supper at the dining facility.

Before the students left, they sang “Barka” to their tour guides, Soldiers of the 50th RSG from Homestead, Florida, with whom they’d spent the afternoon. “Barka” is a religious hymn that is well-known in Poland to have been Pope John Paul II’s favorite song.

“We got to show the kids what we do as Soldiers, and despite what they’ve seen in the movies, that we’re not all about fighting all the time,” said Army Sgt. Rose Georges, an HR specialist deployed with the 50th RSG who coordinated and led the students’ tour. “After the tour, some of them asked me what I liked most about being a Soldier, and by the looks on their faces, my answer shocked them because I just said that I love my country and I love the organization I’m in. I think they were expecting a more ‘hooah’ response.”

Soldiers who participate in events where they interact with local communities sometimes learn that being deployed doesn’t always mean fighting an enemy. Sometimes, it means fighting stereotypes perpetuated in pop culture.

“I’d love to have more events where we can connect with people who don’t understand what the Army is really about,” Georges said. “Yes, the Army exists to fight wars, that’s true, but on a more day-to-day level, it’s a brotherhood and a sisterhood that values a team player mentality where we look out for each other.”

###