US Army stakes out permanent presence in Poland with ‘Camp K’
Stars and Stripes March 21, 2023
POZNAN, Poland — U.S. Army Garrison Poland was made official at a ceremony Tuesday, with Army leaders and Polish dignitaries lauding the new headquarters in the former Warsaw Pact state as a demonstration of allied unity in the midst of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The decision to set up a permanent base in Poland amounts to a milestone for the U.S. military in the former Eastern Bloc, where American troops since the end of the Cold War have maintained a lighter, mobile presence.
“The word ‘permanent’ is truly very important, and today that has become a fact,” Poland Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said during the ceremony in Poznan, a city of about 530,000 people in the west-central part of the country.
Such efforts in Poland help “increase the resilience of the free world against those who want to rebuild an empire,” Blaszczak said, referring to Russia.
The emphasis in central and Eastern Europe has long been on sending troops on rotational deployments for less than a year.
But in the aftermath of Russian aggression in Ukraine — first in 2014 and then a full-scale invasion in February 2022 — Poland has emerged as a focal point in the U.S. military’s efforts to deter Russia on NATO’s eastern flank.
And while the vast majority of the 10,000 troops in Poland are still operating on a rotational basis, a garrison headquarters at the new Camp Kosciuszko sends a signal that the Army is in the area for the long haul.
“From the Suwalki Gap to Poznan and everything in between, evidence of the strength of NATO abounds,” Lt. Gen. John Kolasheski, V Corps commander, said at the event. “Today, there are more allied soldiers from more allied countries, standing shoulder to shoulder in Poland than at any time in the alliance’s history.”
While garrison work is “often unglamorous” and “typically thankless,” the role of the Army’s support team in Poznan is critical, he said.
“You all are the operational edge, providing the essential services necessary to be ready, especially when deployed overseas,” Kolasheski said.
The Army already has made its presence felt in Poznan by getting involved in community events, visiting schools and collaborating with local leaders on projects such as real estate development, said Col. Jorge Fonseca, the garrison commander in Poznan.
One of the tasks going forward is ensuring there is sufficient off-post housing to support Army civilians and troops arriving on permanent change of station orders, he said.
“It’s well-known that we are here,” Fonseca said. “There is no doubt … right outside the base they are building a brand-new condo. That certainly isn’t by accident. They understand that we are coming, that we are growing.”
The garrison supports the Army’s V Corps, which oversees missions along NATO’s eastern flank and has a forward headquarters on the post.
With the reestablishment of V Corps in 2021, garrison soldiers began developing dining facilities, barracks, headquarters offices and other necessities.
Military intelligence and police units as well as small Air Force and Navy detachments comprise some of the 500 U.S. military personnel in Poznan.
Meanwhile, more than 100 military infrastructure projects are in the works throughout the country, such as living quarters and training ranges, all meant to support the growing U.S. mission, Fonseca said.
The initiatives in places such as Powidz, Poznan and the greater Zagan area are heavily funded by Poland as part of a defense cooperation agreement.
The new garrison joins seven others in Europe that fall under the Army’s Installation Management Command. There are about 140 Army civilian personnel, and more than a dozen soldiers assigned to the garrison.
Referred to as “Camp K” by soldiers, the post is named after 18th-century Brig. Gen. Thaddeus Kosciuszko, a national hero in Poland known for leading troops in battle against the Russians and also for coming to the aid of the United States in 1776 during the Revolutionary War.