STARACHOWICE, POLAND –
In the early hours of Aug. 17, 2019, branches flung against the window of a vehicle carrying four U.S. Soldiers as they traveled through a forest complex near the Lubianka Reservoir, outside of Starachowice, Poland, on their way to a campground where they were supposed to meet up with Polish Territorial Defense Forces Soldiers, college ROTC cadets from Wroclaw and high school ROTC cadets from Starachowice.
As the car entered the dirt path, between 10 and 20 soldiers dressed in Polish Army Combat uniforms emerged from the trees, ambushing the Americans.
“As I was driving into the forest, I heard what sounded like gunshots in the distance,” said Sgt. 1st Class Devon Debany, a Civil Affairs Team Sergeant in B Company, 407th Civil Affairs Battalion. “When I slowed down to see where the shots were coming from, a bunch of soldiers with AK-47s rushed us. They opened the car door and ordered me out so swiftly that I didn’t even have an opportunity to put the car in park. I was really impressed with their ability to perform such an impressive attack.”
The Polish soldiers lowered their facemasks revealing big smiles as they laughed and joked with the U.S. Soldiers. They then invited the U.S. Troops back to the campsite where they prepared for training.
The field exercise was an opportunity for all of the participants, who were members of the Stowarzyszenie bylych zolnierzy (ZBZ) Reserve, which translates to the “Association of Former Soldiers,” to learn different tactics and techniques from trained U.S. Soldiers, as well as share their different experiences.
The training included lessons on Army combatives, which is based off a combination of various mixed martial arts; weapons tactics and reacting to fire; and firing replicas of different air soft rifles. The goal of the training exercise was to increase lethality and tactical mobility of the young future Polish service members.
“I wanted to focus on how to escape during a hand-to-hand combat situation and increasing lethality when in that situation,” said Spc. Dominic Pisco, a Civil Affairs specialist in B Company, 407th CA Bn. and primary combatives instructor. “I could tell that all of the ZBZ Reserve soldiers and cadets were very eager to learn techniques we train on in the U.S. Army. Some of the younger cadets were doing flips and scissor kicks, while the more seasoned TDF soldiers were controlling the ground.”
Debany and Miroslaw Siedlak, a Polish TDF veteran, founder of the ZBZ Reserve and organizer of the exercise, plan to hold another training event in October and said they hope this is the beginning of many more training opportunities in the future, where U.S. Troops are able to train the future of Polish defense forces ensuring that Poland has a more lethal and effective defense against all potential adversaries.