Germans, Brits show off bridge-building skills during Anakonda 16
By MICHAEL S. DARNELL | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 8, 2016
CHELMNO, Poland — A lot can be accomplished in 30 minutes.
That’s about the amount of time it takes to change the oil in a car or read a newspaper. It’s also roughly the amount of time it took for German and British military forces to build a bridge across a 1,100-foot river.
Some folks are just overachievers.
The hasty bridge assembly — troops interlocked more than two dozen amphibious vehicles — was part of Anakonda 16, the Polish-led, U.S. military-heavy training event taking place throughout Poland.
The speed in which the assembly occurred was thanks, in part, to the Germans' familiarity with the equipment.
“It’s a unique capability, not just in the battalion, but in the whole German armed forces,” said Lt. Col. Thorsten Schwiering, the bridge unit commander. “We’re more than happy to show other countries, other nations … what we are able to provide to support.”
The bridge’s rapid creation was also a microcosm of the virtues U.S. Army Europe officials continue to extoll about joint exercises like Anakonda. While USAREUR officials constantly beat the interoperability drum, few events can match a literal bridge being built among nations.
USAREUR commander Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges was quick to point out that the bridge was assembled by German and British troops, at a site controlled by U.S. and Polish soldiers while air support was provided by Polish and American helicopters.
“This river crossing helps us achieve, or move closer to achieving one of our principle training objectives for the Anakonda exercise,” Hodges said.
After its assembly, roughly 30 vehicles from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment crossed over the temporary bridge. The Vilseck, Germany-based Stryker unit is in the midst of a 1,500-mile-long freedom-of-movement operation, known as Dragoon Ride II.
After finding its way through Poland, this element of the regiment will end up in Tapa, Estonia, on June 15. A separate group of regiment soldiers are in Latvia at the moment, on that leg of the convoy operation.
Once in Tapa, they’ll join up with one another and with units from 12 other nations to begin Saber Strike, a series of training missions in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
An AH-64 Apache helicopter soars over a newly constructed bridge over the Vistula River near Torun, Poland, on Wednesday, June 8, 2016. A combined group of British and German soldiers conducted the hasty bridge assembly as part of the Anakonda multinational training event underway in Poland.
MICHAEL S. DARNELL/STARS AND STRIPES