DRAWSKO POMORSKIE, Poland – Spectators watch closely as U.S. and Polish tanks crawl over the hill in a tactical formation before firing, sending shock waves across the training area as the artillery rounds hit the impact area.
Mariusz Blaszczak, the Polish Minister of National Defense, and Col. Patrick Michaelis, the commander of the Mission Command Element in Poznan, Poland, are among the crowd observing a multinational maneuvering demonstration in Drawsko Pomorskie Training Area in Drawsko Pomorskie, Poland.
“Today’s training could have only happened with the close coordination between our two nations,” said Michaelis. “It shows the strength of the alliance and our friendship.”
The demonstration featured Soldiers from 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division out of Fort Bliss, Texas, and Polish Soldiers with the 12th Mechanized Brigade, 12th Mechanized Division out of Szczecin, Poland participating in a live-fire exercise and a static display of Polish and American armored military vehicles.
The 1st Armored Division Soldiers deployed to Europe at the direction of the Secretary of Defense to exercise the U.S. Army’s ability to rapidly alert, recall and deploy under emergency conditions.
“What we have just witnessed was the exercise between the Polish Armed forces and U.S. troops in Drawsko Pomorskie,” said Blaszczak. “This is very important because it shows this was an allied training within the North Atlantic Alliance. The commander of this exercise [Col. Chad Chalfont, commander of 2ABCT] approached me and said this exercise is not organized because the Minister of National Defense of the Republic of Poland visited this training arrangement, this is daily training being conducted in Drawsko Pomorskie.”
This exercise highlighted the U.S. and Polish strong partnership, cooperation, and U.S. commitment to the NATO alliance by working closely with each other.
“I have to say that the 12th Brigade is very proud to be a part of this training. Because of the unique training opportunity, we were able to use U.S. military equipment and understand their operational functions,” said Col. Slawomir Dudczak, the commander of the 12th Mechanized Division out of Szczecin, Poland. “We really gained a new experience. I’m very happy that my sub-units will be able to participate in the training for the next seven days to implement new strategies that we have learned over this exercise.”
The Soldiers work together, shoulder to shoulder, to integrate and build stronger relations for future joint exercises.
“Today, three days before the 70th Anniversary of NATO, an alliance we are all committed to, we are well represented by Polish and the U.S. Soldiers that you see,” said Michaelis.
“As they sharpen the art and science of putting steel on target, it is a clear expression of combined strength, interoperability and determination. Today’s demonstration of the dynamic enforcement of U.S. forces across oceans, across continents without warning and without notice, serves as a demonstration of our capacity, of our mutual commitment, and our mutual resolve…it’s an Atlantic Resolve.”
Every Soldier understands the importance of their feet to complete Army missions and rely on their boots to remain sturdy, comfortable and flexible, which is why the U.S. Army is completing a test to eventually issue new hot weather combat boots.
At the beginning of 2019, the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC) kicked off testing four different prototypes of Army hot weather combat boots to receive feedback from Soldiers and ultimately improve the issued combat boots, said Anita Perkins, the technical lead for the boot evaluation with NSRDEC.
Perkins went on to say that a Congressional survey showed “over half of the Soldiers who participated noted they purchased commercial boots once the initial entry phase was complete. That is how we knew that there was some needed improvements. This, then, became an opportunity for us to now take advantage of the current technology and manufacturing footwear industry processes.”
“We started off in a study that compiled the ten most liked boots, which then led us to the four prototypes that we have now,” said Jay McNamara, another footwear research engineer at NSRDEC. “They are meant to be more lightweight, flexible and comfortable. It’s meant to really improve a Soldier’s quality of life.”
Last week, NSRDEC gave out the prototyped boots to approximately 800 Soldiers of the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas, to initiate a four-month long study with the Iron Soldiers.
“I understand why the Army chose the Iron Brigade to conduct this test,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Michael C. Williams, senior enlisted advisor to 2 ABCT. “Our Soldier’s mission is extremely diverse and will provide a wide array of feedback for the Army’s research and development of new combat boots. I’m glad we can help the Army figure this out while we train on combined arms maneuver. The tough, realistic training we are conducting in very rugged terrain and austere conditions will certainly give the Army plenty of data to facilitate the best decision being made. The deserts and mountains of Fort Bliss will test this equipment to the fullest and will ensure it is capable of meeting the needs of today’s Soldiers.”
With the training posture of 2 ABCT, NSRDEC hopes “to come back after four months to collect the data, which will then go on to make real improvements to the hot weather combat boots for all future Soldiers,” says McNamara.
This team has a personal tie with this mission to create a new way to maneuver- which is one of comfort.
“One of the best feelings I have is being able to see a Soldier put their foot in a boot and look at me wanting to hug me,” explained Perkins. “Just in the initial issuing of the boots, the Soldiers are giving great feedback; but, nothing’s official yet until we complete the entire study.”
Pfc. Austin Tryon, an infantryman with 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, says, “I am definitely excited about the new boots that we may be getting. The old ones, even though they were the right size felt like they were too long. Well, the inside fit too tight, but the outsides were very big.”
Tryon goes on to say, “I had to purchase my own boots, but that was starting to get really expensive. This is definitely a step up as far as Army issued boots go.”
“A study like this goes to show that Soldier’s voices are being listened to and steps are being made to mitigate their grievances,” said Capt. Lucas Makens, an assistance planner with 2 ABCT. “As we move forward, we hope that Soldiers continue to speak out their opinion in these surveys to improve the future of the Army.”
Each year, retired Chief Warrant Officer 3 Tommy Mills of El Paso asks himself how the organizers of the competition in his son’s name could possibly do better, but each year, they find a way.
This year was no exception for the Staff Sgt. Joshua M. Mills Commando Competition, with the largest number of teams ever participating in the fifth annual competition that honors our nation’s fallen.
The competition is named after an El Paso native and Green Beret who was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group, when he died Sept. 16, 2009, after his vehicle struck an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan.
“To say that we are honored and we appreciate what you do for our fallen, with our son’s name on it, I can’t thank you any more,” said Tommy Mills, as he spoke at the competition’s closing ceremony at 1st Lt. Paul A. Noel Parade Field at Fort Bliss Saturday.
Other family members in attendance included Joshua’s mother Celeste and his son Malaki, 9, who attended for the first time this year and not only got to hand out coins to the winners, but also visited with participants throughout the competition and received a tour at the 1st Armored Division Combat Aviation Brigade.
Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Dean, a Special Operations recruiter and organizer of the competition, said 12 teams of four competed this year, with new categories that included law enforcement and Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadets.
The competition, which took place Friday (September 28) and Saturday (September 29) at Fort Bliss, included a set of difficult exercises that had to be completed in 80 minutes; a five-mile run that had to be completed in fewer than 40 minutes; a stress shoot with five events at McGregor Range, N.M.; all the obstacles at the Air Assault Obstacle Course (timed); and a six-mile ruck march with a minimum 40-pound ruck that included carrying water cans, ammo crates and litters, Dean said.
It ended with four Soldiers assigned to the Black Daggers Parachute Demonstration Team parachuting onto the parade field before the closing ceremony.
This year’s winners included Joint Task Force-North, the top Fort Bliss team; 19th Special Forces Group, the number one Special Forces unit; Team One from the University of Texas at El Paso ROTC, the best ROTC team; and the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team, the best law enforcement team.
In addition, Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Ricardo Luna, assigned to JTF-N, won the upper body round robin individual competition for the second year in a row. Derek Nepo, assigned to the 19th SF Group, was the top shot in the stress shoot.
Maj. Adam Antonini, a member of the JTF-N team, said the turnout from all the Fort Bliss units was impressive.
“Competing in the JMCC was a great opportunity to spend two days honoring an NCO who gave his life in defense of the American people,” Antonini said. “Seeing the Mills family in attendance at every event really motivated us to do our best.”
It’s important that the Fort Bliss community continues to support the event year after year, Antonini said.
Several 1st Armored Division units also participated, and Sgt. Armand Spencer, assigned to 1st Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st AD, said the competition made him a better Soldier.
“I just love competitions and showing what you’re made of,” Spencer said. “It gives you that gut check and it’s a good way to represent our battalion.”
“The 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, Iron Brigade, has undergone some of the most intensive and realistic training the 1st Armored Division has to offer, and its leaders have forged a lethal and ready team,” said Maj. Gen. Pat White, 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss commanding general.
Major General White added, “This force is fully prepared and ready to take over their new mission in support of Operation Spartan Shield.”
As part of the regular rotation of forces, the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team will replace the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division and combatant commander mission requirements to support of Operation Spartan Shield.