GOWEN FIELD, ID - Polish soldiers attended Idaho National Guard M1 Abrams tank training in October and November to observe best practices as Polish Land Forces seek to develop their own training capability.
The Polish military — a U.S. Ally, NATO member, and official state partner of the Illinois National Guard — recently requested to purchase a fleet of M1A2 SEPv3 tanks and is working through the State Department and the Department of Defense to identify opportunities to partner in armor crew member training.
While the Illinois National Guard and Republic of Poland enjoy an enduring partnership focused on professional military education, crisis management and response, as well as operational training and combat deployments, the Illinois National Guard does not operate or maintain the M1 tank. Therefore, to ensure success of their state partnership led to extending the cooperation to the Idaho National Guard.
The Idaho Army National Guard’s 204th Regional Training Institute, located at Gowen Field, Idaho, specializes as an armor training schoolhouse, delivering curriculum to U.S. military armor students. During the visit, schoolhouse instructors and armor experts provided training and insight for Polish soldiers to consider as they seek a capacity to train their own forces in the armor field.
“The 1st of the 204th Armored Training Battalion is the only National Guard battalion that teaches a full catalog of armored training courses,” said Maj. Noah Siple, commander. “We are credentialed to be the premiere armored training battalion of the National Guard. Couple that with our Orchard Combat Training Center, and our ranges for armor-specific training, there is really no better place to go to.”
The battalion has provided armored training since the 1980s and offers various cavalry scout and M1 armor crewman courses, including a tank commander’s course and advanced leadership course. A portion of the curriculum requires students to train in the 143,000-acre OCTC, one of the country’s largest and most versatile maneuver training sites, located approximately 25 miles south of Boise.
Polish officers and warrant officers serving in various positions including chief of planning and programming; logistician and fires experts; and company level officers, attended the battalion’s crewman transition course.
Soldiers also attending the course from the Idaho, Kansas, Oregon and Texas National Guards had the unique opportunity to interface with the Polish soldiers before graduating on Nov. 22.
The 27-day course is designed for enlisted members in the ranks of sergeant and staff sergeant. The platoon-level coursework provides training in the technical and tactical skills necessary to employ the M1A1 SA MTB or M1A2 SEP tank against enemy positions during unified land operations.
While Poland currently operates the T-72 and P-91 tanks, the M1A1 and M1A2 offers an array of operational differences and capabilities, said Sgt. 1st Class Lucas Kaserman, the crewman transition course manager.
“We integrated the Polish soldiers as much as possible into the training course to give them many of the same opportunities we give our U.S. students,” Kaserman said. “They already have a familiarity with tanks, which was helpful, however, the M1 is a different kind of tank with a lot of new things to learn.”
Throughout the course, Polish members took turns rotating through the driver, loader, gunner and commander crew stations; participated in tank simulators where they operated as both tank commander and gunner while engaging simulated targets; and conducted live-fire familiarization in the OCTC, where they fired different weapon systems of the tank, including an M240 and .50 caliber machine gun.
Additionally, they spent time with course experts and senior leaders of the Idaho Army National Guard, including its 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team, an M1 tank unit, to discuss best practices in learning how to implement their own armor training course once returning to Poland.
“They came here to experience first-hand training with the M1A2 SEPv2 Abrams tank and to understand how we train and construct courses for Soldiers becoming tankers in the U.S. military,” Siple said. “Not only did they have that opportunity and are leaving here with lived experience to implement their own training, but they also got to engage and build relationships with all elements of the Idaho Army National Guard to continue building those capabilities in the future.”