Poland-Born Chaplain Returns from Building U.S- Polish Ties
1 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Chaplain (LTC) Pinkie Fischer of the 82nd Airborne, Chaplain (MAJ) Napieralski and Jan Watroba, Roman Catholic Bishop of Rzeszów, Poland. (Photo Credit: Capt. Ryan Miller) VIEW ORIGINAL
Poland-Born Chaplain Returns from Building U.S- Polish Ties
2 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Chaplain (MAJ) Napieralski condcuts the Ash Wednesday religious service for 82nd Airborne Soldiers stationed in Poland (Photo Credit: Capt. Ryan Miller) VIEW ORIGINAL
Poland-Born Chaplain Returns from Building U.S- Polish Ties
3 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Chaplain (MAJ) Napieralski conducts a meeting with 82nd Airborne Soldiers and the Polish and Ukrainian representatives at Caritas office, a charitable organisation in Rzeszów, Poland. (Photo Credit: Capt. Ryan Miller) VIEW ORIGINAL
Poland-Born Chaplain Returns from Building U.S- Polish Ties
4 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Chaplain (MAJ)Napieralski with 82nd Airborne Division Soldiers after Sunday services (Photo Credit: Capt. Ryan Miller) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT BRAGG, Nc.-When Soldiers deploy across the world, it is an opportunity to visit and experience a new culture. For the Chaplain of the 525th Expeditionary Military Intelligence Brigade, Maj. Maciej Napieralski, it was an opportunity to return to his home country and forge stronger ties between Poland and the United States Army.

Maj. Napieralski’s background made him particularly important for assisting the Army with building ties in the community. Born in Jarocin, Poland, not far from the current Fifth Corps Headquarters in Poznan, he attended the local seminary. He was ordained as a priest by the Diocese of Gniezno, Poland, on May 23rd, 1983, and still maintains his standing in that diocese. “I started to think about the examples from my past of other examples, youth ministers and priests. I was 17, 18, 19 years old and thinking about becoming one of them, and that’s why I went to seminary. At that time of my life, I was very seriously thinking of devoting my life to God,” he said. “I had my life in my hands. How to spend my life in the most meaningful way? I thought that serving others and serving God that there was nothing more important than combining those two types of service.”

Maj. Napieralski worked as a Catholic priest in Poland for years when he started to think about seriously pursuing missionary work in the mid-90s. “I had several conversations with my bishop about possibly going to the African countries or perhaps Papua New Guinea when someone mentioned that there were missionary Catholic priests working in Alaska,” he said. “The Catholic Church officially recognizes the Fairbanks Diocese as a missionary diocese, and I ended up with a contract there.” The diocese ran into financial troubles. The Bishop suggested he might want to give the Army a try “up until that moment I didn’t think about any type of Chaplain, I was browsing the internet looking for recruiters and I found one in Fort Knox,” he said. “That was how I got started, and in 2007 I went to the Chaplain Officer Basic Course.”

While serving as a Chaplain to Soldiers deployed to Poland Maj. Napieralski also assisted in key-leader engagements with important members of the populace. “When I went to see General Donahue (The 18th Airborne Corps Commander) he decided to give me attachment orders to the 82nd Airborne Division, it was decided that I would be deploying on the linguist list,” He said. “Especially at the beginning, the first weeks I was working as a chaplain and as an interpreter at different levels, going with battalion and brigade commanders to interact with local authorities, military police authorities and helping them communicate, helping to communicate with religious leader engagements with the Bishops and Archbishops.”

There were also challenges in the deployment for Maj. Napieralski as well, “on a very difficult and emotional level was meeting with Ukrainian refugees,” he said. “Describing horrible situations what their children experienced what the mothers experienced there. There were always conversations with the mothers about what they went through before they crossed the border, and sometimes interpreting was too much. I was so emotional they were crying, and I wanted to give them a hug and be with them, it was very difficult to work as an interpreter in those situations.”

When on the ground in Poland Maj. Napieralski was able to meet with many people in Poland and gauge how people were responding to the influx of Soldiers to the region. From his many experiences, the response was overwhelmingly positive. On one occasion, the vehicle he was traveling in broke down and it was towed to a car service. “When the owner of the car service shop realized who we were and why we came, he said to the other customers we have to serve them first, he called three other mechanics, and they fixed our vehicle and he didn’t charge us,” he said “that example shows I think how we are welcomed all the conversations everywhere were very positive. We are here, we are safer here in Poland, and it is safer when you are around, thank you for being here.”

For the future Maj. Napieralski has high hopes for continued Polish relations “I think during the last months starting in February that Polish-American friendship and that connection on the government level and soldiers training together intensively is growing in mutual understanding, exchange of experiences and everything else. Another thing to think about is that there are 3.5 million refugees in Poland, and they didn’t need to create refugee camps. They were all received by different organizations and families, the doors to houses were open for them. That solidary of two nations will exist for years or generations to come.”

Despite being close to his home and family, being able to visit his relatives was a challenge but something that Maj. Naperalski was able to accomplish. “Being close to home I needed to apply for an exception because there are no leaves on deployment but the 82nd Airborne Division Chaplain Fisher she helped me a lot with that and I went home to see my family. My mother was very happy that I came and also my time spent with my nephews and nieces. My sister with her family she lives in France, but she came to Poland to meet with me, my brother with his family and I was able to meet with my siblings.”

Upon returning back to Fort Bragg from Poland before moving to his next duty station, Maj. Napieralski was able to reflect on his time in Poland and his contributions. “Overall, it was successful; it brought me a lot of satisfaction that I was useful not only as a chaplain, not only presiding over services and offering services to Soldiers, but also interpreting and being present in different situations.”