BEMOWO PISKIE, Poland --- In a small town near Orzysz, Poland, a new multinational Battle Group has a big mission. The U.S. Army-led Battle Group Poland is one of four new NATO enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) units that have been stood up this summer as a part of NATO's biggest reinforcement of its collective defense in a generation.
The intent of the new Battle Groups is to reinforce NATO's eastern flank and help deter future incursions while working in conjunction with host nation defense forces.
"We need to be prepared to fight," said Lt. Col. Christopher L'Heureux, Battle Group Poland Commander. "You can't have deterrence without capability. We have to be ready, be trained and be lethal."
THE ENHANCED FORWARD PRESENCE MISSION
With the relatively recent Russian incursions into Crimea and Ukraine, NATO heads of state and heads of government decided at the 2016 NATO Warsaw Summit that a stronger military presence was needed in the Black Sea Region in order to deter any future incursions. The result was four uniquely structured, multinational battle groups that have been tailored both geographically and to host nation requirements, as well as several other factors.
Each eFP unit is led by a framework nation but is comprised of multinational forces and capabilities. In addition to the U.S.-led Battle Group in Poland, there is Battle Group Latvia led by Canada, Battle Group Lithuania led by Germany, and Battle Group Estonia led by the United Kingdom.
"NATO's new enhanced Forward Presence is an example of burden sharing," said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in a speech at the Munich Security Conference on Feb. 18. "Four battlegroups involving 15 European Allies are deploying to the Baltic States and Poland, sending a clear signal of solidarity."
Less than 400 days after the NATO Summit in Warsaw, the fourth and final Enhanced Forward Presence battle group was declared operational by the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in August.
BATTLE GROUP POLAND
L'Heureux commands the U.S.-led Battle Group in northeast Poland that consists of approximately 1200 Soldiers, many of whom come from U.S. Army Europe's 2nd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment. The remaining portion of the deterrence force is provided by a reconnaissance troop from the U.K.'s Light Dragoons and a Romanian air defense artillery battery.
"It is definitely a unique mission and one that we all take seriously," said L'Heureux. "Every nation, every Soldier here brings a unique capability to the fight and we've been working every day to ensure we are credible and capable force."
The Battle Group was stood up in April and was welcomed by some of Europe and Poland's most prominent political and military leaders, including U.S. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, Supreme Allied Commander Europe,; Poland's President Andrzej Duda; and Polish Minister of National Defense Antoni Macierewicz. President Duda issued a meaningful statement on the significance of the Battle Group's presence in Poland.
"It's not an exaggeration to say that this moment has been awaited by generations of Poles since the end of the Second World War," Duda said as he addressed the entire Battle Group at the arrival ceremony in April. "Those were generations of Poles who dreamed about us becoming political members of a just, solidarity-based, democratic and free Western world."
Since their arrival, the Battle Group has participated in numerous training events to improve the interoperability of the participating nations, as well as larger exercises in the region. For example, the Battle Group participated in the U.S. Army Europe-led exercise, Saber Strike, in June, which served as its validation exercise just two months after arriving to Poland.
During Saber Strike, the Battle Group demonstrated its ability to integrate with host nation forces as well as integrate with other battle groups when the Soldiers conducted a road march through the Suwalki Gap to link up with Battle Group Lithuania, and with the Lithuanian Iron Wolf Brigade to conduct a joint river crossing.
Battle Group Poland's movement through a strategically important piece of terrain to link up with another Battle Group demonstrates the speed and freedom of movement of NATO forces, which adds to the collective defense of the nations along NATO's Eastern Flank.
"We've done a huge amount of work over the last six to seven months," said U.K. Maj. Noel Claydon Swales, Commander, A Squadron, Light Dragoons, who provide deep reconnaissance for Battle Group Poland. "As a Battle Group we have achieved a huge amount here."
Most recently, the Battle Group conducted an alert exercise, Bull Run II, to test their speed of assembly, freedom of movement and collective defense of the area.
The drill integrated all members of the Battle Group and the host nation Polish Army 15th Mechanized Brigade as the units moved towards the Suwalki Gap to rehearse defensive operations in local terrain.
"One of the objectives for Bull Run is to practice the things that we have to do as a Battle Group to get out of the door and into a defense," L'Heureux said, "to practice what we would have to do in the case of a conflict or rising tensions."
The first rotation of new forces into the Battle Group will occur latter this fall when the Romanian, U.S. and U.K. elements conduct their transition. Additionally, Croatian military elements will arrive in the fall to bolster the Battle Group and provide a few more capabilities to the unit.
"We were asked to put in the foundations for house," Swales said. "I think as a Battle Group we've put the foundation in, we've put the walls up and we've put the roof on. Now it's up to the next rotations to fill that house."
(Editor's note: This article is one of a series of topics that will be presented as individual Warriors Corners by Army officials during an upcoming conference, hosted by the Association of the United States Army, from Oct. 9-11.)