ROŻYŃSK WIELKI, Poland — U.S. Army Soldiers with Task Force Marne visited a local school to learn about Polish culture and to familiarize Polish children with American culture near Bemowo Piskie Training Area, Nov. 15, 2023.
A group of U.S. Army Soldiers with Bravo “Barbarian” Company, 2nd Battalion, 69th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, serving as part of NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group Poland, met with the school staff and students of Primary School Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński as part of an effort to learn about Polish culture and connect with local citizens.
Staff Sgt. Bryce Roatch, a tank commander with Barbarian Company, explained that with the large, nearby presence of the NATO base, it’s important to help the children understand that the Soldiers are friendly and not scary and why they are serving in Poland. Likewise, learning about Polish culture and history helps the American Soldiers understand why their service in Poland is so important.
“This is an opportunity for us not just to show that we’re scary beings with big scary vehicles,” Roatch said. “We’re actually here to learn and understand what’s going on with the local kids here. It’s a huge way to show the next generation of Polish children that this is not only a cool opportunity; it’s very fun.”
“My idea for cooperation with Battle Group Poland when I became the director of our school in 2018 was that children have the opportunity of meeting new cultures without going out of school,” Grzegorz Kacperski, the director of Primary School Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, said. “Because we, geographically, have this honor that you are near here. We wanted to take the benefit [of teaching Polish culture] for American Soldiers not just as Soldiers but mainly as American Citizens.”
The students taught the Soldiers about Poland’s history and one of Poland’s most notable figures in its struggle for independence.
“Józef Piłsudski was the most important person in Polish independence after 1918,” Kacperski said. “American Soldiers are here to help us keep our independence. Leaving Poland, they should know, first of all, why they were here… for Polish people they are [helping to keep] the independence which was started by Piłsudski.”
Roatch, in turn, gave a presentation to the students about the culture of the U.S. Army, the state of Georgia, and the United States. The Soldiers also did some arts and crafts with the students, which allowed them to learn words in each other’s languages, as well as their interests and backgrounds. The Soldiers toured the school and answered the students’ questions in different classrooms.
“The children here are really smart and nice,” Cpl. Daemazejah Corbett, a signal operations support specialist with Barbarian Company, said. “They asked me a lot of questions, so I got to talk to them a lot. I had a good time.”
“For me, it’s very fun, because I get to see my Soldiers interact and grow in not just public speaking but also being able to see the different attributes and ways that cultures talk, and do similar things that we do over in Georgia,” Roatch said. “Getting to watch them sit down and relate is notably critical to their growth in being NCOs and Soldiers, but I think it’s critical in our future here and for them when they end up being staff sergeants and sergeants first class.”
“I got to talk to some of the children, where we learned a little about them,” Corbett said. “I’m realizing that we’re all kind of the same in a way. They like some of the stuff I did… I connected with them a little bit more.”
Roatch believes that it is important for Soldiers to get comfortable interacting with local populations, whether it be in Poland, the Middle East, or wherever they may be serving, so they can build trust and positive relations with local populaces.
“We’re here for now, but we don’t know where the conflict is tomorrow,” Roatch said. “A lot of these Soldiers — they may stay in or they may not — when they become my position, it's important for me and for them to see that they need to be able to trust their community when times are tough.”
The 3rd Infantry Division’s mission in Europe is to engage in multinational training and exercises across the continent, working alongside NATO allies and regional security partners to provide combat-credible forces to V Corps, America’s forward deployed corps in Europe.