US troops building up Polish, Romanian bases
By MARTIN EGNASH | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 25, 2018
DRAWSKO POMORSKIE, Poland — U.S. troops are building guard towers, office buildings and other permanent structures in Poland and Romania to support the rotational forces deployed to Eastern Europe to counter possible Russian aggression.
Resolute Castle 18, a six-month exercise run by the National Guard and Army Reserve that began in May, is building up the Joint National Training Center Cincu in Romania and a Polish tank base in Drawsko Pomorskie, about 70 miles from the German border.
“Historically the U.S. goes into areas and uses temporary facilities that we tear down at the end,” Maj. Jason Rolling, the commander of the U.S. troops at the Polish base, said Tuesday. “Here we have the opportunity to provide long term support to (rotational U.S. soldiers) as well as ensure that our allies have the right permanent facilities to train with.”
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014, the United States and NATO have buttressed the alliance’s defenses along potential hot spots, such as the Baltic states and Poland. Four NATO battle groups now operate in the region, and a U.S. Army brigade is on full-time rotation.
Meanwhile, Poland has expressed interest in hosting U.S. troops on a permanent basis amid acrimony between the U.S. and Germany, which hosts about 35,000 U.S. troops but has been criticized by President Donald Trump for not spending enough on defense.
Resolute Castle, which ends next month, has been a sweaty, exhausting effort for the National Guard and Army Reserve units, who have been building facilities for the exercise. The National Guardsmen hail from Michigan, Delaware, Illinois, West Virginia and Tennessee; the reservists are from Minnesota, Iowa and Colorado.
While most exercises focus on combat simulations with allied and partner nations, Resolute Castle is an exercise for U.S. and U.K. engineers to build real-world military facilities in Eastern Europe, to be used in other exercises in the region, such as the annual Saber Strike exercise, where more than 18,000 soldiers from 20 countries conducted massive war games in the region in June.
About $24 million is being invested in building various structures at the bases aimed at increasing the two host nations’ combat effectiveness improving training opportunities for U.S. and NATO forces. The projects will significantly expand the operational capabilities of the bases, officials say.
In both Romania and Poland soldiers are building new offices and support facilities. For the Polish base, that will more than double the number of soldiers the area can support. In Romania, the reservists are constructing guard towers, a new entry control point and a base road system.
“This will greatly increase the footprint here and basically allow the Poles to put a full-sized element, and conduct training, here,” said Capt. Benjamin Rodenberg, the executive officer of the soldiers in Drawsko Pomorskie.
In Poland, the guardsmen have been working on improvements that help tanks train in the area, such as new concrete tank turning pads, which allow tanks to utilize the live-fire range without tearing up the dirt roads. They’re also building a 350-meter moving target on a rail system.
“When you look around (the base) this environment is very ideal for any armor unit to come train. This (moving target) gives them another valuable piece of equipment to train on,” Rodenberg said.
The United States has deployed an armored brigade to Eastern Europe on nine-month rotations since 2017 in response to Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula three years earlier.
Currently, soldiers with the Army’s 1st Cavalry Division’s 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team are conducting training at the base in Poland. They plan to utilize the facilities being built here when they’re complete.
“You just need to look at Poland on the map, and see their borders, to see why it’s important that we’re here,” Rodenberg said.