With the soldiers of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment serving in the NATO Battalion Combat Group on endurance, character and making friends talks Michał Zieliński.
How did you imagine your detachment in Poland? Have you heard any funny or unusual stories about Poland before you came here?
2ndLt William Scott, 1st Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment: I’ve known about 2nd Cavalry Regiment’s rotations to Poland since I learned that I would be joining 2CR in February 2017, but genuinely didn’t know what to expect in concrete terms. I knew it would be a unique deployment based on the mission set; not necessarily peace-keeping or national stability but a display of international unity and deterrence.
While I hadn’t heard any outlandish stories about Poland before arriving, one of the better recommendations from friends was to bring beach-appropriate clothing. During stretches of free time in the weekends, swimming in the area’s lakes and ponds is a great way to decompress.
Sgt James Hackworth, 1st Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment: I imagined Poland as a sort of rotation similar to Korea when I first heard that we were going. I was expecting the basics: a curfew, a mileage radius, and a high op-tempo training schedule to squeeze in as much training as possible into a small timeline. I hadn’t really heard any stories that were funny or unusual before arriving.
What was your first impression when you arrived?
2ndLt William Scott: My first impression was one of surprise; Bemowo Piskie Training Area is secluded in the woods, so it was jarring to be so immersed in the forest that I could barely see the base from the road until we were at its front gate.
Sgt James Hackworth: My first impression was at 2 in the morning, when I arrived. I saw the tall fences and outlines of all the buildings. I wasn’t sure if we were in the right place but was surprised at how far in the woods the base is.
What was your service in Poland? How was it different from your service in Germany?
Sgt James Hackworth: Actually, it is flipped from what it would have been in Germany. Instead of multinational forces coming to train with us, we are coming to Poland to train with them. This gives a unique experience that is not often seen from my end.
2ndLt William Scott: In Poland, I’ve served as the Joint Visitor Bureau Officer-in-Charge and the coordinator for BPTA’s linguists contracted through Mission Essential. As the JVB OIC, I work with an NCO to coordinate incoming visitors’ itineraries, lodging, and logistics while they are in BPTA or traveling through Poland. Managing the linguists means I work with the different elements of the Battlegroup to allocate the post’s English-speaking Polish citizens to facilitate training.
Back in Germany, I’m the Squadron’s Assistant Intelligence Officer, so the difference is noticeable. In Germany, I assist Squadron-level training by providing briefings on the capabilities of real-world enemy forces, developing maps for Squadron, and overseeing physical security of arms rooms.
How has the cooperation been going on with Polish soldiers?
2ndLt William Scott: I work directly with four Polish liaison officers (LNOs) to coordinate between the Battlegroup and the Polish 15th Mechanized Infantry Brigade. It’s been great to work with them to develop each side’s respective understanding of the other’s culture, and we’ve been able to smooth over language differences by focusing on the common goal of enabling training and operations.
Sgt James Hackworth: My current job requires for me to deal with the Polish soldiers on an almost
daily basis. The language barrier can be difficult sometimes, but we have linguists to mitigate the differences in language.
You probably noticed other differences between service in the Polish and US Army. What are they, from your own perspective?
Sgt James Hackworth: The work schedules for each army is different, so if we get called at midnight, our Polish counterparts may not be at work at the same time. Both forces train a lot as well, but our training seems to be more constant while Polish seems to be concentrated into certain times and training events. Both are however arduous and effective individually, and it has been great to see the differences and learn from them.
2ndLt William Scott: One of the biggest differences that I’ve noticed between the Polish and US Armies is the emphasis on individual personal interaction. Almost every piece of business done with senior Polish leaders takes place one-on-one over coffee, as opposed to staff-based synchronization meetings that the US Army conducts. It’s been interesting to learn how to blend small talk and work while working with Polish counterparts.
Additionally, the Polish Army displays a higher degree of adherence to structure than the US Army. While the US Army has “battle rhythm events” that occur routinely, we are less opposed to cancelling or moving meetings than the Polish, who rarely stray from their prescribed daily and weekly schedules. The advantage to the American way of events is a higher degree of flexibility, but the Polish have a higher level of predictability, so it effectively evens out.
Have you experienced a situation in Poland that is particularly memorable to you?
2ndLt William Scott: I ran a half-marathon with some other soldiers from the Battlegroup in the city of Wegorzewo, which is about an hour and a half away from BPTA. The course, the competition, and the overall ambiance were highly enjoyable, but what made me laugh out loud was the fact that the winners of the half-marathon received an eel… because “Wegorzewo” means “eel” in Polish. Won’t be forgetting that sight for a long time.
Sgt James Hackworth: I met up with a video gamer friend that I play with online who I did not know was Polish. When we talked and found out that she lived in Elk, I got to meet up with her, meet her family, and hold her fluffy cat.
How has this detachment affected your professional and private life?
Sgt James Hackworth: Being here I am able to improve the areas that my job affects, and am able to learn new things by working with my multinational counterparts. There are some schools that I am unable to attend and some travel that I would like to accomplish that being here holds me back from but on the whole, being here has been a unique experience.
2ndLt William Scott: This rotation to Poland is my first real experience of army life, so I don’t have much of a barometer for how this compares to routine army operations. However, despite the long hours and high pace (due to internal training requirements, daily coordination with multinational elements, and frequent missions set forth by our higher Polish headquarters), it’s all been a great opportunity to forge close relationships with the other members of 1st Squadron. Because we’re constantly around one another, this rotation has led to friendships with people I couldn’t have anticipated, and prompted me to refine my ability to stay motivated for the long haul. The short version is that I’ve blended my professional and private lives by working to make friends across the Squadron and learning from as many people as possible.
What would be your connotations with Poland after this detachment?
Sgt James Hackworth: After I leave, I want to associate myself with the changes I make to this base. I work every day to make further improvements to logistical and operational processes so that we can better function as a multinational force that speaks several languages. If I look back at this event, I hope that the standards that I put in place are used by the units after I leave, so all the soldiers can feel more comfortable in how they operate day-to-day.
2ndLt William Scott: I’ll associate Poland with my first experience of the army, with late Friday night gym sessions with friends, with close cooperation with a variety of international partners, and with a desire to eventually return to see more of Poland.
autor zdjęć: Hubert D. Delany / US Army