BOLESLAWIEC, Poland –
Soldiers from the 372nd Engineer Brigade, 416th Engineer Command, U.S. Army Reserve, from Fort Snelling, Minnesota, arrived in Poland in January 2019 with the mission of over-seeing nearly 25 construction projects spread over three task forces and two countries in an exercise known as Resolute Castle (RC) 19.
"Resolute Castle 19 has been a growth process for us to help us further train and enhance our ability to be a ready deployment asset to the Army and the joint force,” explained 372nd officer in charge Maj. Robert Mikyska. “In fiscal year 2018 we were involved at battalion headquarters in Cincu, Romania,” he said. This year the brigade assumed mission command over the entire RC 19 mission and will be in Poland through September 2019.
Seabees of the 22nd and 7th Naval Construction Regiments (NCR) from Gulfport, Mississippi, arrived on the scene In May. “As part of the planned mission for the exercise, we have relinquished control to the Seabees so they can come in and exercise command and control (C2) over a joint mission,” explained Mikyska. “This allows us to conduct a staff exercise which will develop our redeployment operations order,” he said.
During the Army’s time away, the Navy was to continue with mission execution while also evaluating joint and combined engineering processes and provide input for improvements. Any changes incorporated in the over-all project management process would have to be sustainable by RC 19 forces and maintained by the Army’s 372nd EN BDE.
“The incorporation of the Seabees at a brigade level is a prime example of interservice operability,” said Army First Lt. Steven Scott of the 301st Forward Engineer Support Team (FEST). “The Navy is tasked with taking over operations while the operations are occurring and I liken that to jumping on a moving train. It is valuable to have outside perspective on our operations,” he said. “We’re all talking about the same things but have different ways to say it. Ultimately it is how do we accomplish the mission,” Scott added.
“The training that RC 19 affords the Naval Construction Force, in particular 22 NCR and 7 NCR, is excellent in regards to sustainment training in a deployed environment furthering unit readiness (blue/gold integrated operations),” said Capt. Cameron Geertsema, commodore for the 22 NCR . In this setting, we are able to practice principles of command and control, logistics, and engineering operations,” he said. “Upon redeployment, my desire is to look back and be able to say, ‘we have strengthened partnerships, improved infrastructure, and demonstrated proficiency in engineering operations’,” Geertsema added.
Task force north consisted of the area around Drawsko Pormorskie Training Area (DPTA), Poland, task force central Zagan-Swietoszow, Poland and task force south was in Cincu, Romania. “Our Polish and Romania hosts have been gracious and have demonstrated incredible military proficiency,” Geertsema said.
Training and working in a forward environment can present challenges not experienced state-side.
“The units on the ground have a difficult task of utilizing locally procured materials that sometimes don’t always align with the US designs provided,” said Scott. “But the troops actions are commendable in their modifications to designs and adaption to the situation on the ground in order to accomplish their mission,” he said. “I’m very eager to see the final project packages for RC 19; how modifications and refined designs lead to new standards for the European (EUCOM) theatre,” he added.
Continuing to work together as a joint and combined force is fundamental to the success of future resolute castle exercises. “The interoperability achieved between the Army and Navy, and partnering NATO allies, is phenomenal and will strengthen our readiness and capability for years to come,” said Geertsema.
This sentiment is echoed by Mikyska, who said the Army to Navy transition was “absolutely seamless.”
“It truly has been one of the most enjoyable transitions I have been a part of,” said Mikyska. The Navy provided competent leaders and Sailors and a level of expertise that will allow me as the Army lead to further serve our stakeholders. Truly feels like a big family. It’s like we’ve always worked together, it’s phenomenal,” he said.