CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo – Shoulder to shoulder, bracing against the midday July heat and dawning North Atlantic Treaty Organization-campaign ‘KFOR’ patches, nearly a dozen Polish and U.S. Soldiers conducted peacekeeping operations in Kosovo.
The patrol operation began with a briefing between the Polish and U.S. squad leaders to synchronize routes, communication and tactics.
Their shared patrol mission was carried out seamlessly, without any lapse in communication.
“We work well together,” said Polish Armed Forces Pvt. Przemyslaw Mankowski, a radio operator with the Polish Kosovo Force (KFOR) contingent. “Aside from KFOR, some of us [Polish troops] have served alongside U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and have trained abroad in international exercises with U.S. troops. On any occasion, we very much value our cooperation with the U.S.”
Since Poland’s incorporation into NATO and the passing of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244, Polish and U.S. troops have worked together in Kosovo since 1999. However, the two nations’ history of cooperation dates back many decades before.
“Our strong relationship and commitment to freedom dates back to the American Revolution,” said Polish Armed Forces Lt. Col. Maciej Bankowski, commander of Polish troops in Kosovo. “Polish heroes Tadeusz Kosciuszko and Casimir Pulaski significantly aided the American cause and helped secure their victory.”
“Our cooperation has even been evident throughout more recent decades,” he added.
Following the end of World War I, the powers that engulfed Poland dissolved and the Polish state was recognized June 28, 1919, by agreement of the victorious Allied Powers.
Not long before this, President Woodrow Wilson made a 1918 address to Congress known as the Fourteen Points in which he called for an independent Poland. The U.S. would later become the first country to recognize Poland as such in 1919.
“In 1920, Poland was victorious in fending off further threat to our independence against the Soviet Union,” said Bankowski. “What is known as the Battle of Warsaw has become a permanent day of remembrance and celebration of Polish independence. We are thankful for the U.S.’ consistent expression of solidarity on this day.”
This Aug. 15 marks the 100th anniversary of The Battle of Warsaw, which has been celebrated as Armed Forces Day or The Feast of the Polish Armed Forces.
The U.S. Army formally recognizes Armed Forces Day throughout its ranks while relations between the two countries continue to grow.
In an Aug. 3 press release, Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper confirmed an agreement between the United States and Poland on enhanced defense cooperation.
The agreement deepens military cooperation between the two nations, increasing deterrence against potential adversaries, assuring transatlantic security and strengthening NATO.
Over 20 years into the NATO-led KFOR mission, also known as Operation Joint Guardian, Poland and the U.S. and other NATO partners and allies have shared the responsibility of ensuring a safe and secure Kosovo.
Oregon Army National Guard Lt. Col. Kyle Akers, commander of the 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry Regiment, said his troops regularly cooperate with KFOR’s Polish contingent.
“We’re peers, partners and aligned in our mission,” said Akers, whose 2-162 troops represent the 27th iteration of U.S. troops in Kosovo. “Jointly we conduct patrol, crowd and riot control, sling load and freedom of movement operations.”
“Collectively, we leverage our diverse, multinational knowledge and experiences to maintain high levels of readiness, training and professionalism,” Akers added.
Staff Sgt. Christopher Bibby, a squad leader with the 2-162, said his members are enthusiastic about working alongside the Polish and their enthusiasm is reciprocated.
“We share similarities as Soldiers and as individuals,” said Bibby. “When we are conducting our mission we operate as one unit, and we love every opportunity we get to work with our allies.”
KFOR’s Polish contingent commander said the U.S. and Polish relationship in Kosovo is only one example of the strong partnership that is shared between the two countries worldwide.
“The U.S. and Poland are jointly engaged in maintaining security and stability throughout Europe,” said Bankowski. “Our alliance is credible, enduring, and stronger than ever.”