Elblag, Poland - 2020 presented the command with new challenges as COVID-19 became part of the new normal. We have adjusted our training and now know the new standard of training in a COVID environment. But what didn’t change was that our soldiers’ commitment to the overall mission remained the same. Our soldiers operated by the division’s motto every day, “Facta, non verba; acts not words.
Over the last three years, this division put a lot of effort to demonstrate to leaders throughout the region that we are a proven NATO divisional headquarters, capable of unambiguously demonstrating NATO’s solidarity, determination and ability to act against any potential aggression against NATO’s eastern flank. And this fact was realized when the Lithuanian and Polish Chiefs of Defense affiliated the Iron Wolf Mechanized Infantry Brigade and the 15th Mechanized Brigade to this headquarters.
Although this headquarters had a relationship with the brigades since 2017, this affiliation represented an historical moment for the command which enabled the headquarters to increase the cooperation and further interoperability between MND-NE and the brigades.
While COVID-19 impacted many of our training plans, we were still able to execute a number of training exercises to ensure the readiness of the division and our major subordinate units. One such exercise, Amber Bridge 20-1, occurred early in 2020 and allowed us to improve upon our tactical command post communications with our subordinate commands, it also was a key exercise leading up to Defender Europe-20.
While COVID scaled back the scope of Defender Europe-20 this headquarters was still able to conduct battle staff training, execute planning with a German, Spanish and two Polish brigades as well as other smaller units.
In the following months, we learned how to operate in a COVID environment and the next major exercise was Bull Run-12. The Bull Run exercise is aimed to improve the ability of the eFP to train alongside the 15th Mechanized Brigade and other units around the Suwalki Gap which is one of the most strategic locations in Europe.
Bull Run-12 was no exception to this, in addition to eFP Battlegroup Poland, the Polish 15th Mechanized Brigade, the Polish 16th Pomeranian Mechanized Division, and Polish 1st Territorial Defense Brigade, elements from the Polish Air Force, and elements of the Headquarters and Command Support Regiment of the Multinational Division North East participated in Bull Run. Their activities were supported by Mi-24, W-3 helicopters and F-16 aircrafts.
The exercise was a success, and as Multinational Corps Northeast Commander, Polish LGEN Sławomir Wojciechowski, said during his visit, “one of our greatest strengthens as NATO Regional Land Component Command is our constant readiness. Bull Run-12 has proved that our forces are well-integrated, interoperable and ready at all times.”
Four months later, in October, our affiliated brigade, the Polish 15th Mechanized Brigade had their chance to prove they were ready at all times, well-integrated and interoperable with both NATO and Polish forces when it conducted its Combat Readiness Evaluation during exercise Dzik-20. The exercise, run by the 16th Pomeranian Mechanized Division with headquarters and MND-NE as the higher command, confirmed that the soldiers of the 15th Brigade have the ability to perform the tasks as a National Home Defense Force resulting in a Combat Ready status.
Additionally in October the division sent a team to the Czech Republic to support the 7th Dukelská Mechanized Brigade during exercise Decisive Vision 20. The division supported the Czech brigade in planning and defense activities. The 7th Dukelská Mechanized Brigade and MND-NE have a history of supporting each other during exercises. In 2018, the Czech brigade supported the division during Exercise Saber Strike-18 and Exercise Anakonda-18.
The following month, soldiers from the division headquarters traveled to Lithuania to participate in Exercise Iron Wolf which is an exercise designed to certify the preparedness of the enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup Lithuania, and the Iron Wolf Brigade. Iron Wolf followed NATO’s annual exercise, Brilliant Jump, which tested NATO’s ability to respond and move NATO’s very High Readiness Joint Task Force in the event of a crisis. Due to this, some units that participated in Brilliant J ump stayed in Lithuania to participate in Iron Wolf.
At the end of November, the division executed one final exercise. In addition to previous plans division planned and executed exercise Amber Desire. It was a short notice exercise demonstrating to the region that MND-NE can move its units from one nation into another, and more importantly it showed we can support each other.
Despite the challenges and obstacles of 2020, the headquarters was able to execute these numerous missions due to the support of and cooperation with the troop contributing nations that comprise our headquarters, NATO’s Multinational Corps Northeast, and cooperation with the Polish General Command. Finally, the Elblag community and the other local communities continued to support our soldiers, civilians and family members to ensure we were able to focus on our mission. Thank you.
Facta, Non Verba.