They train together, they exercise and meet challenges together. The army operationally supports other uniform services during various crisis situations and such events as NATO summit.
In May 2019, a tornado went through the Lublin region. Soon after, the residents of the Little Poland, Silesia, Subcarpathia and Świętokrzyskie regions were fighting the floods. To help the victims, the firemen, policemen and soldiers went to the rescue. The examples of situations where the different uniform services provide help are multiple. Long ago, the role of the Polish Armed Forces ceased to be limited solely to defense tasks related in case of military threats. More and more frequently, the army provides support to the state and nation in emergency situations.
Army Goes Into Action
A primary obligation of the Polish Armed Forces is territorial defense of Poland and its citizens. The army can also participate in countering natural disasters and eliminating their effects, in anti-terrorist activity, in search and rescue missions, or in protecting life and health of people. “The fundament of all activities undertaken in the area of crisis management is the Act on the Common Duty to Defend the Republic of Poland,” explains LtCol Marian Chalimoniuk, PhD, the Crisis Response Chief at the Armed Forces Operational Command (AFOC).
Military response to non-military threats is also regulated by the Act on Crisis Management of 2007. According to Article 25, the Minister of National Defense, can transfer military units at the voivode’s disposal (on his request), and direct them to perform crisis management tasks, provided that they will not collide with primary army tasks. “Based on this, we deploy the forces and resources declared earlier in crisis management plan, which defines the number of soldiers and military equipment to be sent to activities in the entire country,” adds the AFOC officer.
He also emphasizes that according to the law in Poland, the activities taken by soldiers in crisis situations are of assisting nature. “Response to non-military threats in Poland is carried out by other services, such as the Fire Service, the Police, or the Border Guards. The military can support them if their resources are insufficient,” emphasizes LtCol Chalimoniuk. “The cases of cooperation between the Police and the Border Guards are multiple. One of the most spectacular examples of such cooperation was obviously the Warsaw NATO Summit and the World Youth Day.”
The supportive role towards other uniform services, the military takes in such situations as crisis response to terrorist threats. This is based on the Act of 2016 on Anti-Terrorist Activities. The armed forces can be used when the third or fourth level of threat alert is introduced or when the police units are insufficient.
Can the army take a primary role in these types of activities? According to current regulations, regardless of crisis management, it is possible, as in the example where it is operational commander who, on behalf of defense minister, is responsible for the entire airspace protection. It is explained in detail in the Act of 1990 on the Protection of Polish Border (Article 18b). Specifically, it’s about a situation where there is an armed attack on Poland or a terrorist attack. If an enemy aircraft crosses a Polish border or if it continues to fly in our airspace without permission or against the rules, it is then requested by Polish services to leave Polish airspace, change flight parameters or land on a designated airport. If the enemy aircraft does not do any of the above, it can be intercepted by military fighters. Their task is first to identify and then force an aerial intruder to obey or land. In case the intruder will not follow the instructions, such aircraft can even be shot down.
If it comes to crisis activity, more on the subject can be found in Article 27 of the Act on Shipping and Port Security. As LtCol Chalimoniuk explains, it is about a situation when a direct threat must be eliminated: a threat to ships or ports, such as e.g. terrorist attack. “A defense minister can in such a case even issue an order on using in the Polish maritime areas any necessary measures even to sink the ship. We’re talking here about the so-called »final decision«,” says LtCol Chalimoniuk.
Crisis management is performed on several levels, starting from the national one, which is subordinate to the Council of Ministers, to urban municipalities and rural communities, where responsibility falls on city mayor or village mayor. A voivode, in a situation of emergency, assembles a team of specialists and the representatives of uniform services. The armed forces are represented by the chief of military staff at the voivodeship level. If, according to the voivode’s estimation, a situation needs military support, he applies to the MoND’s Armed Forces Operational Command (with the copy to the MoND Crisis Management Center) for such support. Such procedure reduces time, so the army specialists and soldiers are quickly ready to be deployed wherever they are needed,” explains LtCol Chalimoniuk. What also saves time is the fact that the chief of the Crisis Management Center and his deputy are authorized to decide about sending the forces and necessary equipment. This, however, relates only to resources previously included in the MoND crisis management plan. All amendments to this document and any additional number of soldiers require separate decisions taken by the Minister of National Defense.
The army men prepare for aid operations in the so-called military task groups. Directly responsible for them is the armed forces operational commander, but in time of crisis activity, they are subordinate to coordination services, i.e. Fire Service or the Police. In 2019, on the request of the voivodes, almost 50 military task groups were formed. Soldiers were trained, among other things, in neutralizing chemical threats or took part in flood rescue missions.
Territorial Defense Forces for Crisis
An increasing role in crisis situations is taken by the Territorial Defense Forces (TDF). The soldiers of this formation are to stay close to local communities, i.e. help local people during various kinds of crisis accidents, such as flood, fire or hurricanes. An essential role in the TDF crisis management is played by the support assessment teams, which are to reach the scene as fast as possible, do the reconnaissance and assess situation, as well as by the reconstruction teams supporting local administration.
In 2019, the TDF was incorporated into the state crisis management system. “Very soon, the positive side of it showed up: a territoriality of service and readiness to take action. The commanders of the State Fire Service admit that never before had the Polish Armed Forces provided assistance so fast and on such a scale. Crisis activity can verify many capabilities of the army, including combat ones,” says MajGen Wiesław Kukuła, a formation commander. Only in 2019, in assistance tasks almost 6,000 “territorials” (TDF soldiers) were engaged. They counteracted the effects of flood or heavy storms in the Subcarpathian, Little Poland, Świętokrzyskie, Silesian, Lublin, and Pomeranian voivodeships. They were engaged in fighting the effects of African Swine Fever (ASF). As the TDF Commmand says, while searching through over 130 ha, about 150 AFS focuses were identified. TDF soldiers were supplying the locals with fresh water on the territories where the water supply system and wells were contaminated. In several voivodeships, during Helping Energy Exercise, they tested the possibilities to provide electric power to critical infrastructure, but also to entire villages.
The TDF commander admits that crisis activity is particularly important to him. “In conflicts of new generation, the line between peace and war is blurred. I find it hard to imagine that a formation, which is so close to local communities as the TDF, is not dealing with the tasks of support and rescue nature. We’re often the first to know where and what help is needed. Besides, among the TDF soldiers, there are many firemen, rescuers, former border guards. These are people who understand the core of crisis management,” says General Kukuła.
The commander of the Territorial Defense Forces also emphasizes that this type of activity is based on various types of agreements. “Territorials” sign an agreement on cooperation with other services at the central level, e.g. with the Border Guards, and then the commanders at the level of brigades or battalions sign contracts with adequate services in the region. This allows all uniform services to train together, learn procedures, and in effect better function operationally. “The agreement with the TDF assumes information exchange, providing specialist technical support, mutual delivery of logistic services, and sharing experience. Both our formations have declared their cooperation not only during exercises, but also in crisis situations,” says Lt Agnieszka Golias, Press Officer for the Chief Commandant of the Border Guards. The TDF Command is also about to conclude similar agreements also with the Mountain Volunteer Search and Rescue (Górskie Ochotnicze Pogotowie Ratunkowe, GOPR) and with the Polish Scouting and Guiding Association (Związek Harcerstwa Polskiego, ZHP). The agreement with the Fire Service is also planned.
The approach of the Territorial Defense Forces to crisis management is special. On the one hand, the formation functions based on the same rules as other branches of the armed forces. On the other hand, as regulated in the Act on the Common Duty to Defend the Republic of Poland, conducts crisis activity outside the AFOC. This means that the TDF soldiers are included in the military crisis management plan, and they directly cooperate with, e.g. the Police. “The Police province commandants often use our help and they address us directly, e.g. during search missions,” admits the General. “The cooperation with soldiers is excellent. Our formations actively participate in e.g. searching for the missing persons,” says Inspector Mariusz Ciarka, Press Officer for the Chief Commandant of the Police. Only in 2019, the TDF soldiers took part in 18 such missions conducted in the following voivodeships: Lublin, Łódź, Warmian-Mazurian, Masovian, Kuyavian-Pomeranian, Podlaskie, Silesian, Great Poland. “To carry out the tasks, 985 soldiers were engaged, most of them were the »territorials.« For the first time, we had engaged the on-ground search and rescue team, after the crash of a civil helicopter in Masuria,” says LtCol Marek Pietrzak, Press Officer for the Territorial Defense Forces.
Work and Operate Together
The cooperation with other services is not only limited to crisis situations. “Due to specificity of contemporary threats, uniform services must intensively cooperate. Necessary are trainings, learning about mutual procedures and work methods. Pre-coordination of tasks and joining competences are the key here,” says Maj Leszek Kołtun, PhD, Deputy Rector of the Higher School of Criminology and Penitentiary Science (Wyższa Szkoła Kryminologii i Penitencjarystyki, WSKiP) in Warsaw, an initiator of Tactical Prison Rescue Exercise, which integrates almost all uniform services. The exercise has been taking place cyclically for seven years, and among the participants are the units and institutions of the following ministries: justice, internal affairs and administration, and national defense. Next to the Prison Service’s intervention groups, the officers of counter-terrorist units of the Police and Central Investigation Bureau (CBŚ), and of the airfield support units of the Border Guards and the State Protection Service (SOP) also participate in the exercise. The army is usually represented by the Military Police, the Military University of Land Forces (AWL), and the airborne and special units. In 2018, the TDF soldiers had participated in this exercise for the first time.
“This exercise, which not only test the level of training of individual formations and their cooperation with medical rescue units, but also abiding by the procedures during the so-called mass events. We also train proper skills of presenting information, segregation of the victims or securing the scene,” says Maj Kołtun. The scenarios of this exercise is based on real events. “Such was the case with the task we once had to deal with: a bomb found on the bus full of teenagers. Similar situation took place in Wrocław where a chemistry student planted a homemade bomb in a bus: it was a container filled with saltpeter and nails,” said the prison officer. Maj Kołtun emphasizes that during seven editions of this exercise, different uniform services united into one efficient team.
The exercises that integrate various services are organized also by the army. The AFOC, for years, has regularly conducted the Renegade maneuvers, during which soldiers and officers train procedure for potential terrorist attack from air. The Kaper Exercise is also about similar threats, but they take place on the Baltic Sea. The example of cooperation can be Kryzys (Crisis) workshop that has for five been years conducted by the AWL. This is a test on how to proceed in crisis situations, organize management posts and on the cooperation rules between the services and local authorities. “During the studies, the NCOs and civil students learn about, among other things, procedures and reaction in potential crisis situations. Their skills are tested in practice in multiple ways. Such workshop, with active participation of other uniform services, make the situation seem more real-life,” admits LtCol Piotr Szczepański, PhD in Eng., Deputy Dean for Student Affairs at the Security Sciences Faculty of the Military University of Land Forces.
A cooperation between the Ministry of National Defense and the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Administration is well represented between the Military Police and the Police. Both formations for years have been running joint projects, protect people and help to keep safety and order. “Joint patrol duties, road traffic controls, pilotages, searching for the missing people, securing mass events or the participation in national and ministerial ceremonies, as well as the exchange of mutual experiences during numerous trainings – that’s only a particle of all projects held by our formations,” says the press officer for the Police Chief Commandant. The Police officers and the Military Police soldiers also control the drivers, and detain those who drive under the influence or in other way violate traffic rules.”
The Military Police often supports the policemen. „In September 2019, in accordance with the Prime Minister’s order, our soldiers participated in securing Warsaw celebrations of the 80th anniversary of the World War II outbreak, as well as the visit of US President Donald Trump to Poland. Regularly, we also take part in the police actions, such as Znicz (Candle) organized during the All Saints’ Day. We and the policemen also take care about the security of people leaving for winter or summer holidays,” says LtCol Artur Karpienko, the Press Officer for the Military Police Chief Commandant. The Police can also count on the soldiers’ support during mass events. Such was the case with the EURO 2012, World Youth Days or Warsaw NATO Summit. Both formations exchange their experience during staff meetings and crisis management exercises.
The soldiers also work with the Border Guards. According to their Press Officer, Lt Agnieszka Golias, the cooperation is in operations and trainings. The military policemen for several years have taken part in patrols of the Border Guards officers on the state border, and help in securing large mass events. The soldiers and border guards work together on research and scientific projects. They interchangeably use the data bases, specialist equipment and help of education personnel. The army for years has been co-working operationally and in trainings with the Fire Service. The fireman and soldiers participate in, inter alia, the training in national system of contamination detection and alerts. In 2020, the Fire Service officers will cooperate with the military in over 60 projects.
According to the Territorial Defense Forces Command, the structures of this branch of the armed forces are better prepared for crisis situations. MajGen Wiesław Kukuła claims that the MoND crisis management system can be simplified, if the territorial defense brigade commands are appointed to command at the voivodeship level, so it is not the military staffs that are responsible, but for example the TDF brigade commanders who only after using all their potential would apply for assistance from other branches of the armed forces. In the opinion of the TDF command, natural disasters cannot be forsaken, so the crisis management plan cannot always be implemented in full. The army should be ready to be flexible, but in order to do that, the initiative should be passed to tactical commanders. Will that happen? Sceptics admit it’s too early for that, as the TDF are just building up their capabilities, and they are not evenly spread throughout the country. The forces will thus be not capable of equally effective crisis management in the Masurian region or in Opolskie region, where the battalion is only just being formed. The solutions proposed by the TDF will be discussed by the General Staff of the Armed Forces in March 2020.
autor zdjęć: st. chor. sztab. mar. Arkadiusz Dwulatek/CC DORSZ