DRAWSKO POMORSKIE TRAINING AREA, Poland – When you pass by the conference rooms at Drawsko Pomorskie, Poland, you can look inside and see groups of Polish soldiers chatting with U.S. Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. It’s not an unfamiliar sight. U.S. Soldiers have been in Poland since 2014 as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, training and sharing military tactics. However, this time it’s a bit different. This time, these soldiers are making history.
The Polish Land Forces have purchased 250 U.S. Abrams tanks, and the U.S. Army designed a Tank Academy that consists of various events that started with the Abrams Operation Summit, which lasted from April 26th to the 28th, 2022.
Key leaders from both Polish and U.S. armies met together to discuss the details of the Tank Academy that will take place over the next few years, while U.S. Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, held various classes on maintenance operations, qualifications of a master gunner, and sustainment operations. The summit ended in a live-fire combined arms breach to show off the capabilities of the M1A2 Abrams tanks.
Polish army Maj. Patryk Pankowski from the 1st “Warsaw” Armored Brigade, 18th Mechanized Division out of Warsaw, commented on participating in the Tank Academy, “This is a great opportunity to take the knowledge about the U.S. systems and for us to learn more for when we implement these new tanks to our army.”
The next phase of the Tank Academy consists of the Abrams Apprenticeship Program, which began May 19th, 2022, and will run through the next few months. During this block of training, master gunners from the 1-68 Armor Regiment, like U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Darren Brinson, are excited to participate, “This experience as a whole is amazing. This is one of the greatest things I have ever had the honor of being a part of,” he said.
Brinson and other master gunners from 1-68 AR are responsible for teaching Polish soldiers about the Abrams tanks – everything from the technical side to the logistical side. These workshops are part of one of the most significant contracts in the history of the Polish Land Forces and will increase interoperability between the two NATO allies.
The 1st Armored Brigade, Polish Armed Forces will be the first in Poland to receive the Abrams tanks from the U.S. Army. “This is high-tech equipment. We have a lot of the same things in our tanks, but it is very different, too, ” Pankowski commented. “This training is very helpful. For us, everything we see is new. Not only the equipment, but we have a very different organization of our training, of our school, and our job within the tanks.”
During these classes, U.S. Soldiers are teaching the Polish the capabilities of the M1A2 Abrams tank – how to operate and use it in the Polish tactical environment, as well as maintenance, recovery and how to plan and conduct gunnery.
Brinson commented on how it feels to be a part of this Tank Academy, “I say this with a great amount of humility, I will be a part of history now. Internally, I am content because I know I was a part of it. That’s an accomplishment that I will carry to the grave with me.”
Pankowski is sure there will be some changes within the Polish Armed Forces, but nothing has been made official yet. For now, he is just enjoying the process of learning all he can during the Abrams Apprenticeship Program.
“I love these tanks,” laughed Pankowski, “I have been a tanker for about 15 years, but for me this is a great occasion to see something new and I hope I will be a battalion commander on these tanks.”