moja polska zbrojna
Od 25 maja 2018 r. obowiązuje w Polsce Rozporządzenie Parlamentu Europejskiego i Rady (UE) 2016/679 z dnia 27 kwietnia 2016 r. w sprawie ochrony osób fizycznych w związku z przetwarzaniem danych osobowych i w sprawie swobodnego przepływu takich danych oraz uchylenia dyrektywy 95/46/WE (ogólne rozporządzenie o ochronie danych, zwane także RODO).

W związku z powyższym przygotowaliśmy dla Państwa informacje dotyczące przetwarzania przez Wojskowy Instytut Wydawniczy Państwa danych osobowych. Prosimy o zapoznanie się z nimi: Polityka przetwarzania danych.

Prosimy o zaakceptowanie warunków przetwarzania danych osobowych przez Wojskowych Instytut Wydawniczy – Akceptuję

Sharpen the Spearhead

The detachments on duty within the NATO Response Force (NRF) are constantly being tested. One of such detachments is the 21st Podhale Rifles Brigade, which has spent the last several months, almost incessantly, on Polish and foreign training grounds.

The active part of the NRF duty, which has been performed since January 1, 2020 by the detachments of the 21st Podhale Rifles Brigade, is coming to an end. It is not yet the time for a final recap, but it has certainly been a very demanding year for the Rifles. Despite the pandemic, the VJTF (Very High Readiness Joint Task Force) Brigade achieved virtually all training objectives, including the most important ones – a series of exercises simulating redeployment of the NATO Spearhead Force to the territory of a member state and defending it. They not only executed the task, but also significantly shortened the time regimes assumed by NATO, while repelling enemy attack for longer than anticipated.

It would all be impossible if not for the many years of experience and many internal trainings organized to keep the skills of the soldiers on duty at the highest level. The most intensive training on every level of command – from platoons to battalion, was undertaken from August, and crowned with Exercise Lampart 2020 in October.

“We could have gone the easy way, but if you want to do a good job, it can’t be easy,” says BrigGen Dariusz Lewandowski, the Commander of the VJTF Brigade and the 21st Podhale Rifles Brigade. “I am aware that this series of undertakings was very demanding, but warfare is not easy either. That’s why we are checking both the soldiers’ skills and their survivability,” emphasizes the general, adding that such an attitude enabled them to fulfill all their obligations, and was recognized in Strasburg. “The supervisors give us very good evaluations, and they have shown their appreciation and contentment many times. Our cooperation with allied battalions was also exemplary,” praises his soldiers BrigGen Lewandowski.

This year’s NRF duty was the first one in which the Polish Armed Forces took part in such a big extent. The experience gained by the soldiers of the 21st Podhale Rifles Brigade, as well as the conclusions drawn from each exercise, not only influence the ongoing preparation of the NATO Spearhead Force detachments, but can also successfully help their successors.

Cooperation is Key

Exercise Lampart 2020 assumed redeployment of the Polish Spearhead Force detachments to an unknown territory, where they had to immediately engage in defensive operations. We might say it was a national version of the exercise prepared by NATO, and at the same time a final test. It was undertaken on a training ground in Orzysz, where the Podhale Rifles arrived by operational railway and road transport.

“This exercise ultimately confirmed our readiness for the duty. It concentrated on conducting delaying and defensive operations by mechanized infantry cooperating with detachments of tanks, artillery and aviation,” explains LtCol Marcin Samburski, the Commander of the 1st Podhale Rifles Battalion. It is worth noting that apart from the Podhale Rifles, the VJTF Brigade is made up of soldiers from virtually every unit of the Land Forces, including the 1st Aviation Brigade (aviators of the 49th Air Base in Pruszcz Gdański and controllers of the Tactical Air Control Parties from Inowrocław), as well as the Military Training Center for Foreign Operations (CIMIC Groups soldiers).

“During Lampart we tried to execute a full spectrum of kinetic operations, as well as non-kinetic ones, such as countering enemy subversive groups. We conducted warfare both during the day and at night,” says LtCol Samburski. The Polish element of NATO’s Spearhead Force is made up of mechanized detachments of the 1st Podhale Rifles Battalion, reinforced by the T-72 tanks of the 1st Tank Battalion in Żurawica and the Rak Fire Modules. The commander of the 21st Podhale Rifles Brigade emphasizes it is the close cooperation between the mentioned detachments that ensures their strength. “Undoubtedly, the whole undertaking was very challenging due to its scale and the necessity to control each element of the battalion. The new, unfamiliar territory which made it impossible to operate according to a known set of rules made it even more difficult. This was a perfect training environment for our soldiers,” underlines LtCol Samburski. He adds that the very demanding character of the duty is exactly why it is both a great responsibility and a privilege – for all the Polish Armed Forces.

Only a few days after Exercise Lampart 2020, the biggest NATO Response Force exercise commenced – Brilliant Jump 2020. The first part of the exercise, ALERTEX, took place at the beginning of the year and aimed at checking the Spearhead’s time of reaction. The forces were to get to the loading site after the announced alert. During that part of the exercise, the VJTF forces already proved they can execute their tasks faster than it was assumed in NATO procedures, while maintaining the highest level of professionalism. This time, however, the task was much more complicated. Over 1,200 soldiers, 380 units of military equipment, 130 tons of warfare agents and material means were to be redeployed to the training ground in Pabrade, Lithuania.

Test for Logisticians

“Such an operation is a huge logistic challenge. The whole thing was coordinated by the Polish side and the Movement Control Centre of the Lithuanian Armed Forces,” explains Capt Michał Szloser of the 21st Podhale Rifles Brigade. Heavy tracked equipment, including tanks and IFVs were sent to Lithuania by railroad. “The biggest problem was different track spacing in Lithuania. It was why the whole transport had to be reloaded after crossing the border. The entire operation took two days and due to regulations valid in the time of peace it had to be adjusted to the timetables of PKP Cargo and Lithuanian carriers,” explains Capt Szloser. The simultaneously conducted road transport was divided into three parts. The tactical command post and the Spearhead’s preparatory groups arrived at the training ground first, followed on the next day by the main forces. When the VJTF Brigade’s command set off to Lithuania, the operation was coordinated by the tactical command post already functioning on our ally’s territory.

“The road transport to the border was secured by the military transport commands which marked out our routes to the border crossing in Budzisko. After that, the moving columns were taken over by the Lithuanian military police. We reported on our progress on an ongoing basis,” explains Capt Szloser. The officer also mentions that due to the fact Lithuania is our neighbor and a member of the Schengen Area, the operation ran smoothly. However, logisticians have ready procedures to be implemented in case of redeployment of the NATO Response Force to any place within their area of responsibility.

Three Days to Victory

On the training ground in Pabrade, the Polish command of the VJTF Brigade assumed supervision over Spanish detachments that had come to Lithuania by sea. Next, after restoring combat capabilities, the soldiers commenced bilateral Exercise Iron Wolf 2020. The assumptions for the exercise were as ambitious as in the case of the previous ones – the Spearhead Force faced the eFP (enhanced Forward Presence) Battle Group, whose core was made up of German detachments reinforced by soldiers from France, Denmark and Norway, as well as the Huzar Mechanized Battalion of the Lithuanian Iron Wolf Brigade. These were the forces that simulated an enemy attack violating Lithuania’s territorial integrity.

“Huge masses of people and equipment were working against our battalion. It was an amazing experience. We had never been in a situation when we physically had to face forces of triple strength actually maneuvering in the field,” describes Lt Konrad Witalec, the Commander of the supporting company. The Rifles’ situation was all the more difficult considering that the enemy used heavy equipment, including Leopard 2A7 tanks and Marder 1A5 and CV90 IFVs. The situation of the NATO Response Force was already described as difficult at the very beginning of operations.

“The Rak Fire Module under my command, together with the Lithuanian mechanized brigade, were assigned under the supervision of the Spanish airborne battalion. This multinational component provided support to the mechanized infantry detachments, which turned out to be key in fighting back the enemy attack,” reports Lt Witalec. His words are not an exaggeration. The Rak Fire Module, used for the first time as an element of an allied unit in the exercise, received a lot of recognition. It was mainly appreciated for the speed with which the firing tasks were appointed. Also, the high efficiency of Spanish command posts greatly contributed to the success of the operation. It was the combination that ensured top effectiveness.

“The highest level of realism was maintained thanks to field mediators appointed to every participating detachment. A special application reflected every movement and decision of the fighting forces on an ongoing basis. It significantly influenced the execution of artillery tasks aimed at attacking specific, moving targets,” emphasizes Lt Witalec. Despite the much weaker position, the Spearhead Force managed to fight against the attacking enemy in an organized way for over three days, much longer than anticipated, which confirms the high capabilities of the VJTF forces under Polish command. Now, when the Podhale Rifles are finishing their duty in the NATO Response Force, we need to appreciate that their skills were tested only during exercises, and hope that the gained knowledge and experience will help them maintain the deterrence capabilities of NATO’s Spearhead Force in the upcoming years.

Michał Zieliński

autor zdjęć: Michał Zieliński

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