A new US Navy facility in Poland is key to missile defense and operations with NATO allies, as well as support to Sailors throughout the region.
Inside a former military base near Slupsk, Poland, a densely populated and historically significant northern town close to the coast of the Baltic Sea, lies the U.S. Navy’s only installation in the country -- Naval Support Facility (NSF) Redzikowo.
Getting to the point where the Navy could identify the base as operational was not an easy task, to say the least, especially considering structures had to be built from the ground up and relationships with the Polish community had to be established. This undertaking required a team not only dedicated to mission success, but also to making history.
“As I share with every Sailor onboard, arriving and departing NSF Redzikowo -- treat this base now with the pride you would be proud to share with your children and grandchildren who might one day serve here,” said Capt. Eric M. Williams, the base’s commanding officer. “I am proud as a CO to be afforded the opportunity to lead a team of Sailors in which every day is an opportunity to make a difference, see the difference and be a part of history being made.”
In the past few months alone, Team Redzikowo has achieved major milestones unique to standing up a base. In June, the team took over its new headquarters as the first vertically erected building on the installation. Soon after, they shifted Colors from their temporary administrative buildings to their new center of operations.
By July, base personnel occupied all military constructed buildings. As simple as that may sound, it was far from it. It took coordination with multiple agencies, checking off logistics requirements amidst a pandemic, and ensuring that U.S. Navy traditions were upheld in a foreign country while maintaining respect to their hosts.
“I’m proud of how well the entire team has come together over the past year to truly move the installation forward,” said Williams, who took charge of the base last November. “We have become CNIC’s newest naval installation with an identity reflective of the hard work and pride of every Sailor and civilian in her.”
To truly appreciate Team Redzikowo’s hard work this past year and beyond, it would be best to understand the road traveled to get to where they are today.
Start at the Beginning
The United States and Poland are among 30 nations that are part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). NATO countries are committed to the principle of collective defense, where an attack against one is considered an attack against all. The Navy’s Aegis Ashore Missile Defense System is part of a layered defense network designed to defend against ballistic missiles coming from the Middle East.
NSF Redzikowo is the second base to house the Aegis Ashore system, with the first being NSF Deveselu in Romania.
However, before NSF Redzikowo was an operational base, teams with the Army Corps of Engineers, Naval Facilities and Engineering Command and Missile Defense Agency alongside the installation’s current and past leaders spent approximately years to complete the necessary structures and infrastructure that would make up the core components of the base.
After the base was established in 2016, the area became a construction site – literally speaking. Old buildings, of what was once a German air force base, still existed in the immediate area, but were unsuitable for modern mission requirements. The Navy had to start construction at the, or in the case of an installation, at the foundation.
Just this past September, a historical milestone was achieved as the Army Corps of Engineers officially turned over support facilities to the Navy. In recognition of this momentous occasion, the Navy held a commissioning ceremony rather than the standard ribbon-cutting ceremony, as with most facility turnover events.
“The commissioning ceremony is traditional to Navy warships, but we were authorized the same tradition to be observed for our installation,” the skipper said. “The history-making ceremony was shared with great success with participation from our Sailors, local Polish civic leaders and Polish military leaders.”
Every member of the tight-knit team pitched in to prepare for the ceremony and symbolically bring the installation to life. The security officer and senior enlisted leader took lead of the ceremony logistics. One of the petty officers sang the National Anthem. Others made sure the ceremony site was set up to the standards of a traditional Navy ceremony. Even the acting executive officer used his artistic talent to design the commemorative plaques, commissioning coin and ceremony program.
“It was great to witness,” said the base’s Executive Officer Lt. Cmdr. Joshua A. Turner. “The commissioning ceremony was a beast and took the effort of everyone on base. It turned out great, and it was a huge boost to morale. It helped us shift our Sailors’ mentality to ‘Hey, we’re a naval installation now.’ It was wonderful to see the pride in the Sailors’ faces and hear the buzz of many excited conversations.”
Navy Shore Support
Although the ballistic missile defense system is primarily a NATO mission, the base itself is like any other base in that it provides essential support services to its tenant commands and those who live and work on the installation.
“We support our Sailors with the same concept as a Navy ship,” Williams said. “We are self-sustaining in that we have here on the base everything to support our Sailors’ day-to-day activities and work.”
The newly constructed multi-purpose facility, for example, contains housing for officers and enlisted personnel, a galley, dining facility, library, theater room and a fitness center. There is also a laundry room, conference rooms and a Navy Exchange shop within the multipurpose facility. In addition, the base has a new main entry control point, where entering visitors and personnel are vetted, as at any Navy installation.
“Since the time of my arrival to NSF Redzikowo, there has been drastic progress not only in the appearance of the installation but with the ownership, duties and responsibilities of our Sailors,” said Command Senior Chief Christi L. Montes, the installation’s most senior enlisted Sailor. “Our Sailors are excited to see the progress our installation has made and having access to new buildings and resources and increased mission responsibility. Our Sailors take ownership of their base and are seeing the effects of their hard work to get to where NSF Redzikowo is today.”
The base may be up and running, but according to installation leaders, it is the Sailors and government civilians who are the heart and soul of NSF Redzikowo. There are approximately 85 Sailors and 38 civilian personnel who call NSF Redzikowo home away from home.