DRAWSKO POMORSKIE, Poland — Service members from U.S. Forces in Europe and two other NATO countries conducted a multinational live-fire exercise May 17, near Drawsko Pomorskie, Poland. This exercise enhances interoperability among NATO allies and partners and increases readiness by integrating land and air components with defense capabilities.
The exercise took place under the DEFENDER-Europe 22 umbrella, occurring in various locations across Europe. Activity was located near Drawsko Pomorskie, Poland, while a wet gap crossing operated simultaneously from Lomza, Dęblin, and Nowogród, Poland.
“My Alpha Company participated in a force-on-force situational training exercise and a live-fire training exercise with the Polish and German Army,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Charles Bies, commander of 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. “This exercise allowed us to train alongside our allied partners here in Europe. For most of the formation this was a learning experience not just for us, but also for the Polish and German soldiers. It gave us an idea of where the limitations are and how we can use all our respective strengths to compensate for weaknesses to yield a stronger, more effective, and cohesive team.”
The exercise combined both aerial and ground assets to form an integrated picture. Aerial assets incorporated a variety of U.S. Army and Polish Air Force aircraft. Ground assets included the U.S. M1A2 Abrams tank, U.S. Bradley Fighting Vehicle, Polish BMP-1 Infantry Fighting Vehicle and German Marder Infantry Fighting Vehicles.
Training in this region enhances flexibility and interoperability to strengthen combined response capabilities and demonstrate international resolve. The threat scenarios involved various aircraft with a live flyover to more effectively prepare and maintain cohesion during any joint multinational conflict in U.S. Army Europe and Africa's area of responsibility.
Command Sgt. Maj. Gary Kurtzhals, command sergeant major assigned to 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, explained the reason behind building complex scenarios during these exercises.
“At the end of the day, NATO is one giant friendly force that, if needed and called upon, is going to assemble through a lot of different nations providing critical combat capabilities to a multinational force,” Kurtzahls said. “At the multinational level, to conduct an exercise under a non-U.S. higher headquarters, that also gains access and operational control of various countries to employ them tactically with decisive action is critical for the overall success of the mission.”
During this joint multinational environment, the units involved in this exercise had to work together in Poland to defeat and deter the threats. The success of this interoperability can be attributed to the strong trust these units have in each other, largely due to the relationships they have built and maintained since they arrived.
“It’s been absolutely rewarding working with our NATO Allies,” Kurtzahls added. “It’s more than just working with them during the exercise in the field. It’s when I see soldiers from different countries sharing field rations, and how they climb up on each other’s equipment to see what’s different that we realize that they’re a friendly force that’s going to work alongside us, shoulder-to-shoulder, and hopefully deter war.”
Bies explained that this multinational live-fire exercise provides units with a unique opportunity to work effectively together and overcome cultural and language barriers.
“One of the big ways that this exercise achieved interoperability was understanding how we view tactical problems and how we approach them,” Bies said. There was a learning moment between the U.S. and Polish in the planning process where the U.S. Soldiers were able to teach Polish and German soldiers a different way of using tanks on the battlefield. “We have good lines of communication with the Germans and Polish, learning how to bridge the language gap and communicate effectively has been hugely beneficial.”
True interoperability consists of three things: people, processes and equipment. This exercise was designed to combine all of those things effectively to create a joint multinational picture with the ability to defend against various threats.
“The whole exercise was a success,” Bies added. “If you had told me 20 years ago, that I would someday be on a tank range in Poland watching a company of American M1A2 Abrams tanks and Bradleys, with Polish friendly Hind D helicopters and F16s flying overhead as German Leopard tanks move forward along with Polish PMP tanks, I would have told you that you were crazy. But just being able to see how our different nations were able to work together and achieve our training objectives in this exercise — that in itself was huge.”
DEFENDER-Europe 22 is an annual large-scale U.S. Army-led, multinational, joint exercise designed to build readiness and interoperability between U.S., NATO and partner militaries. More than 8,500 service members from Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States are participants in the DEFENDER-Europe series.