Polish participants bring added authenticity to Guardian Shield 2010

By Capt. Greg Jones, 21st Theater Sustainment Command Public Affairs Office
Sept. 10, 2010

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany -- U.S. forces members in Europe who have taken part in command post exercises are probably quite familiar with interacting with exercise role-players who test them by offering scripted answers in unconvincing foreign accents and educated guesses about what might really happen in "their country."

Participants in the 7th Civil Support Command's recently completed exercise Guardian Shield 2010 had a slightly different experience. They got to talk to role-players whose accents are authentic; role-players who gave the answers real Polish first responders would give...because they're real Polish first responders.

Subject-matter experts from several Polish national agencies took part in the consequence management exercise, bringing expert advice and realism to the training. The Polish participants included police, fire and military officials, as well as representatives from other governmental agencies.

GS10 is one of a series of exercises aimed at bringing the relatively new 7th CSC -- the unit was activated in September 2009 -- to full operational capability as a civil support command. The exercise scenario involved the 7th CSC’s Incident Management Team deploying in response to a request by the Polish government to assist with a chemical spill in a major metropolitan area.

While that scenario is highly unlikely due to Poland's robust disaster response capability, it did provide an opportunity for the 7th CSC to improve its ability to operate with a key regional partner, said Polish police Lt. Tomasz Milczarek.

“It doesn’t really matter about the details of the scenario. The important part is the chance for our countries to work together in a civil response incident,” said Milczarek. “We were put to work finding real-life solutions to these problems in a very short time, and it was challenging, but great learning for all of us.”

Although the exercise was aimed at training the 7th CSC, the Polish participants said they learned some useful lessons as well, such as integration of reserve forces. Polish Regional Fire Chief Adrzej Mroz said his country's military and fire response forces recently became all-volunteer forces, with roughly 80 percent reserve forces. The 7th, a U.S. Army Reserve unit, was just right for sharing its knowledge and experience of reserve matters with their Polish colleagues.

“Because of the nature of this exercise, it has forced these agencies to work together,” said Mroz. “We’ll be taking some of these lessons back home with us as well.”