BEMOWO PISKIE, Poland – NATO Battle Group Poland held a transfer of authority ceremony from the 3rd Battalion, 161st Infantry Regiment to the 1st Battalion, 185th Infantry Regiment on Feb. 11, 2022.
On the 5th anniversary of the battle group, this hand over, take over (HOTO) ceremony celebrated the accomplishments of the outgoing unit to prepare for the continued success of the incoming unit.
Five years as a battle group. Five years as a team. Five years as a defensive force. All of this to prove NATO is a robust and multinational military presence in Eastern Europe.
Today, men and women in uniform from over 20 Allies serve, train and exercise together, representing a strong expression of alliance, unity and solidarity. U.S. Army National Guard Lt. Col. Craig Broyles, the outgoing commander of Battle Group Poland, describes working with NATO and Eastern European allies as a once in a lifetime opportunity.
“This has probably been the greatest experience in my whole 21 years in the military,” said Broyles.
The ceremony brought together multiple dignitaries and key leaders from the U.S. Army and NATO chains of command, in support of the mission and alliance. It sent a clear message that NATO stands united toward a common goal - preserving peace.
“This speaks volumes of the commitment the United States has with our Polish allies,” said Broyles. “There is no better way [to show solidarity] than having everyone get together and this was the perfect opportunity to show it.”
To celebrate the Dark Rifles’ accomplishments, General Jarosław Mika, the Polish Armed Forces commander, awarded Lt. Col. Broyles the Bronze Medal of the Polish Army. Mika spoke to the crowd of NATO soldiers and leaders, thanking the 3-161 Dark Rifles for the excellent job they have done enhancing NATO’s forward presence in Eastern Europe.
“You have had a significant impact on building interoperability and safety in Poland and this part of Europe,” said General Mika. “You have done tremendous work. Thank you for that.”
Out of everything the Dark Rifles accomplished, Lt. Col. Broyles was most proud of Rifle Focus. Rifle Focus was a massive training event where Battle Group Poland, the Polish, and NATO Allies got the opportunity to practice force-on-force warfare in Eastern Europe. It was a unique moment for the Polish people to witness the battle group’s warfighting capabilities.
It won’t stop there. U.S. Army National Guard Lt. Col. Trevor Phillips, the incoming commander of Battle Group Poland, plans on picking up right where the Dark Rifles left off.
“I am grateful for all the hard work put in by your team,” Lt. Col. Phillips said behind the podium. “With me are hundreds of American men and women, each bred with traditional American concepts and values. No nation should ever stand alone when its ideals and principles face challenges.”
The Thunderbolts will build upon 3-161’s legacy and foundation by focusing on training against potential enemy formations. Even though units come and go, one thing remains the same: we are ready, credible and committed to the NATO alliance.