Defender-Europe 20 commanders say Polish-US exercises essential

Modified Polish-US DEFENDER-Europe 20 Plus military exercises with the participation of armed forces are essential to ensure reliability, combat capacity and deterrence, the commanders of the Defender-Europe 20 Plus exercise have said.

The Defender-Europe 20 Plus manoeuvres, ongoing on a training ground in Drawsko Pomorskie, northwestern Poland, are the result of modifications made to the Defender-Europe 20 and Allied Spirit exercises due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Brigadier General Brett Sylvia, Deputy Commanding General of the 1st Cavalry Division, said the training showed both NATO allies and the world that the forces were capable of carrying out safely exercises during pandemic conditions and added that steps had been taken to minimise the risk to both soldiers and local residents.

Sylvia noted that the exercises being conducted in Drawsko Pomorskie differed from those originally planned for May, being a reduced version of the original with only 6,000 Polish and US troops instead of 10,000. He said there was no substitute for such training, as it could not be done either virtually or through tele-working. He said troops were necessary in the field to guarantee combat readiness.

Training commander of the Seventh Army, Brigadier General Christopher Norrie of the American Land Forces in Europe Command (USAREUR) said that COVID-19 affects what the U.S. Army does in Europe, just as it has affected the whole world, but said the troops had managed admirably despite all the hurdles, just as they had managed for the last 245 years, a reference to the creation of the U.S. Army in June 1775.

Norrie pointed out that Defender-Europe 20 was intended to be an exercise in transporting troops and they had already started transporting 20,000 soldiers to Europe to take part in the exercise with allies from 18 countries, when it became necessary in March to modify the venture in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, while other such exercises were called off.

He added that despite the modifications, many of the aims related to strategic readiness and transporting and mobilising forces had been achieved, which clearly showed the US's engagement in NATO and its willingness to send reliable forces to Europe in times of crisis.

The commander of Poland's 12th Mechanised Brigade, Brigadier General Slawomir Dudczak, drew attention to the fact that Defender-Europe was an opportunity to improve interoperability and cooperation and that Polish soldiers had served with allies, especially with American land forces, for over 20 years.

Defender-Europe 20 Plus is running from June 5-19 with the participation of 4,000 American soldiers and 2,000 Polish soldiers, as well as around 2,000 pieces of equipment, including tanks, armoured personnel carriers, artillery, missile systems and aircraft.