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US tanks protect Poland’s Eastern flank in war games

A United States M1A2 SEP fires it's main gun during the shoot-off of Strong Europe Tank Challenge.U.S. Army Europe and the German Army co-host the third Strong Europe Tank Challenge at Grafenwoehr Training Area, June 3 - 8, 2018. (Kevin S. Abel/U.S. Army)

U.S. troops “battled” enemy armor and motorized infantry units in northern Poland while simultaneously engaging armed civilians probing their positions during this year’s Anaconda 18 war games in northern Poland.

The biannual drills at the Drawsko Pomorskie Training Area involve almost 18,000 troops from 10 NATO allies, including the Army’s 1st Cavalry Division’s 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, making it the largest exercise so far designed to defend Poland’s Eastern border.

Antoni Macierewicz, Poland’s former minister of defense, described Anaconda 2018 as a test of NATO’s capabilities to protect the alliance’s eastern flank. Due to “the complex geopolitical situation on the eastern flank,” this exercise would also serve as a deterrent by demonstrating NATO’s might, he said.

Poland’s eastern border has been an area to which NATO has paid close attention to following Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and the outbreak of fighting against Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine’s eastern provinces.

The U.S. armored brigade, based in Fort Hood, Texas, has been deployed on a nine-month mission to Eastern Europe since May, as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, the ongoing mission to deter any further Russian aggression.

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The exercise scenario called for participating troops to respond to a number of threats resulting from a mock attack on Poland’s eastern border. These included conventional armor and infantry units, as well as hybrid warfare elements, such as enemy forces dressed as civilians to scout their positions.

“Our scenario is focused on a multinational defense against an aggression by a fictional near peer adversary,” said Lt. Col. Timothy Ferguson, commander of the brigade’s 2nd battalion. “We integrate in with our allied units, conduct planning and preparation, and then execute tactical scenarios against opposing forces to enable us to have feedback against a thinking, dynamic enemy.”

The exercise began Nov. 6, with U.S. soldiers embedding into Polish-led commands, deciding on a strategy together and setting up defensive positions with American and Polish tanks.

Once the mock battle started, the NATO coalition was expected to repel the fictional invading force and mount a counter attack.

These war games will most likely conclude before Thanksgiving, in Drawsko Pomorskie, but will continue in other bases around Poland until Dec. 6.

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© 2018 the Stars and Stripes

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