By Army Spc. Lisa Laughlin
Illinois National Guard
WARSAW, Poland (6/3/11) - A team of 49 Soldiers and Airmen with the Illinois National Guard's Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and High Yield Explosives Enhanced Response Force Package (CERFP) went to Camp Radiowa, Poland to participate in Epifactor 2011, a series of crisis management exercises, May 21 to 25.
The team trained in different locations within Warsaw, Poland, to share their knowledge, and train each country in the event of an epidemiological attack.
Service members from both countries, as well as civilian authorities, partnered to simulate different epidemiological attacks, to see how the separate forces would work together in the event of a real attack.
Illinois is paired with Poland in the National Guardâ€™s 20-year-old, 65-nation State Partnership Program.
Capt. Christian E. Pedersen, officer in charge of the CERFP, said since Poland is one of the hosting countries for the 2012 Eurocup, it is vitally important they be trained to handle with any type of threat that could occur for the safety of their citizens and the influx of visitors that will travel to Poland to watch the event.
"In today's complex threat environment there is always a threat ... manmade or naturally occurring," said Pedersen.
The Epidemiological Response Center with the Polish Armed Forces responds to anything chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high yield explosive and specialize in an entire spectrum of response, said Pedersen.
"The other part of it is deterrence, by having a coordinated, equipped, trained, competent force and having the international partners there as well, we are providing the Polish citizenry and all of the visitors from throughout Europe that will be coming to watch this multi-national sporting event, we are providing a show of force, and that we are prepared for anything that may occur," said Pedersen.
Army Maj. Gen. William L. Enyart, adjutant general of the Illinois National Guard, visited CERFP Soldiers while they were in Warsaw to observe the training exercises in action.
Enyart said Poland has been one of our most reliable allies and that their participation in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has helped to lessen the strain on American troops overseas.
He said the mission of the CERFP ensures the growth of Poland and the continuation of peace in Central Europe.
"Peace in Central Europe depends on a strong and secure Poland," said Enyart. "What the CERFP is doing here today, what they have done this week and what we will continue to do in the future is help Poland grow as a democratic institution [and] help Poland grow defense capabilities, so that we will have peace in Poland ... Central Europe."
This exercise was not intended for one country to be teaching the other, but more as a collaboration of skills for both sides to learn mutually.
Sgt. Johnathan A. Binger, assistant supply sergeant and biological integrated detection system maintainer, has been with the 135th Chemical Company in Machesney Park for six years and worked alongside American and Polish Soldiers as part of the decontamination line during Epifaktor 2011. One thing Binger said he noticed and hopes to be able to implement in his unit were the simple solutions the ERC used to quickly set up their equipment while using less personnel.
"Some of the equipment they had made their job easier here," said Binger. "Like pulley systems when you offloaded a truck so that you didn't have to use as many Soldiers. Also, their (decontamination) trailer opened from the sides and from the back, which allowed for mass unloading of equipment from different Soldiers, whereas we just have a trailer that opens from the back."
Polish Col. Artur Zdrojewski of Warsaw, the commander of the ERC, said through an interpreter that immense progress has been made on the part of his Soldiers since the beginning of the partnership with the Illinois National Guard.
"With time the level of responsibility increases. First we were observing the U.S., then we started to participate, now we're planning the exercise," said Zdrojewski.
The partnership between the Illinois National Guard and the Polish Armed Forces has been ongoing since 1993 and is valued by both sides of the partnership.
Zdrojewski said the partnership is not only professional, but personal as well.
"The partnership that we have is not only on paper, is not only by words, but it is also deep in our hearts," he said.