U.S., Polish forces conduct air exercise
U.S. and Polish special forces conducted an airborne training exercise Tuesday at Poland’s Powidz Air Force Base that are aimed at forging closer ties between the forces and ensuring troops can collaborate if a mission arises, according to U.S. European Command.
"It gives us a greater understanding of how each side works," said Air Force Lt. Col. Marc Martinez, the training commander.
More than 40 soldiers from the 321st Special Tactics Squadron, based at RAF Mildenhall, England, along with Polish special forces from its mobile response group and 1st Special Forces Regiment are participating. The exercise, which will continue for another three days, involves numerous airborne maneuvers, including low-level static line jumps and high altitude free falls.
Army Lt. Col. Donna Scott, a spokeswoman, said in additional to the military training, the troops are getting some immersion in the local culture.
"We want our forces to be familiar with the people they could be working with," she said.
Such training partnerships are fairly routine between U.S. forces and Eastern European allies such as Poland. In recent months, however, training operations have been set against a backdrop of growing political tension with Russia.
Earlier this year, Poland and the U.S. signed a missile defense deal that involves placing a missile interceptor base in Poland as part of a broader defense system that the U.S. says it is developing to shield allies from the likes of Iran and rogue states. Russia, however, suspects the missile shield is aimed at them.
The interceptor deal, reached in August, provoked strong words from top Russian military leader, Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, who warned that Poland could face attack if such a system were activated.
"Poland, by deploying (the system) is exposing itself to a strike — 100 percent," Nogovitsyn said at the time.
Meanwhile, Russian warships this week are patrolling near U.S. territory on a tour that will include a stop in Cuba. The maneuvers have been viewed as retaliation for a U.S. decision to send warships of its own into the Black Sea after Russia’s conflict with Georgia.
All of the political angst hasn’t been a topic of conversation on the ground in Poland, though.
"None of that has come up," said Martinez, adding that the focus is exclusively on the training. "The folks here are very good to work with."