Troops head to Poland for civilian evacuation exercise
Stars and Stripes June 4, 2003
Airborne soldiers will practice pulling American civilians out of harm’s way and moving them to safety this weekend with the help of the Polish military.
About 200 Polish and American soldiers will head to Jaworze, Poland, for the five-day exercise dubbed Immediate Response 2003.
Soldiers from the Southern European Task Force and 1st Infantry Division will work with Polish paratroopers during the exercise.
“For example, if an ambassador at a certain country feels it’s not safe for Americans to be there,” said Master Sgt. Paul Stevenson, a SETAF spokesman. “Or if those friendly with the American government feel it’s necessary to be evacuated.
“It’s a situation where we would go in and conduct an evacuation under uncertain conditions.”
Some American and Polish soldiers will parachute into Miroslawiec Air Base and others will arrive as the exercise continues through Tuesday.
While a rapid-reaction force was not needed for the U.S. military’s most recent evacuation, a well-practiced plan helped pull about 1,400 civilians out of Incirlik Air Base in Turkey just a few days before war broke out with Iraq in March.
Immediate Response 2003 will include:
¶ Friday and Saturday: American and Polish airborne teams will drop into the exercise.
¶ Saturday: Additional units will arrive in Poland.
¶ Sunday through Tuesday: Commanders will use a computer-assisted command post to test their ability to evacuate noncombatants through a plan known as NEO.
Stevenson said the exercise is part of the U.S. military bid to build partnerships with former Soviet bloc countries such as Poland, which has a proven track record of hosting exercises with American soldiers.
“They’re our allies,” Stevenson said. “They’ve become part of the greater European community. They want to do their part.
“This has been a scheduled exercise — it’s not something that just came about. We’ve been doing stuff in Poland for years.”
Last October, about 5,000 V Corps soldiers participated in the massive Victory Strike III exercise in Szczecin, Poland. That exercise tested the skills of the corps’ aviation units, which would be used for combat operations taking place deep inside enemy lines.
The director of the exercise is Maj. Gen. Thomas R. Turner, SETAF’s commanding general.