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Defender Europe-linked exercise gets green-light in Poland

An exercise involving 6,000 U.S. and Polish troops originally scheduled for May to coincide with a larger division-scale exercise will now occur on June 5-19 at the Drawsko Pomorskie Training Area in Poland.

Exercise Allied Spirit will involve about 4,000 U.S. soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division Headquarters, as well as the 3rd Infantry Division’s 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team and 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, Army Europe officials said in a press release.

Approximately 2,000 Polish soldiers from the 6th Polish Airborne Brigade; 9th Polish Armored Calvary Brigade; and 12th Polish Mechanized Brigade will also participate.

Allied Spirit was originally intended to be one of the many linked training events across the continent comprising the much larger Defender Europe 2020 exercise. The division-scale exercise was designed to test the deployment of roughly 20,000 U.S. soldiers from the continental United States to support activities across 10 European countries.

“Modified from its original design to ensure the safety of soldiers due to COVID-19, the U.S. and Polish bilateral exercise will feature a Polish airborne operation and a U.S.-Polish division-size river crossing,” the Army Europe release reads. “All COVID-19 precautionary measures will be taken to ensure the health and protection of participating armed forces and the local population.”

Even though Defender Europe was considerably scaled down due to the coronavirus pandemic, Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville said in March that the movement of equipment and soldiers to Europe still accomplished “strategic readiness” goals.

“We were able to get our forces over there, we have [drawn] from the pre-positioned stocks and we’re still able to train with our allies and partners, although at much less capability," McConville said previously.

When the deployments from the United States to Europe were halted, more than 90 percent of the equipment tasked for Defender Europe — including 6,000 soldiers and 3,000 pieces of equipment — had already been loaded on aircraft or ships bound for the continent, Army officials said in a statement. More than 9,000 vehicles were also moved from Army Prepositioned Stocks to training areas in Germany, the statement added.

Despite assurances that strategic readiness goals were met, Army Europe is planning additional exercises over the next few months utilizing many of the original Defender Europe training objectives, the command said.

Army Europe’s 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command and the 41st Field Artillery Brigade are anticipated to participate in exercises in the Baltic Region. The 173rd Airborne Brigade is also planning airborne operations in the Balkans and Black Sea Region.

“Details of these training events are still under development and subject to change,” the Army Europe statement reads.

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