POWIDZ, Poland –
The 297th Regional Support Group completed their nine-month deployment to Poland on Thursday when they held a Transfer of Authority ceremony at the 33rd Airlift Base in Powidz, Poland.
The 297th RSG, a National Guard unit from Anchorage, Alaska, was the first Army National Guard unit to conduct base operations for the U.S. military in Poland in support of the European Deterrence Initiative as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve.
During the ceremony, the 297th RSG transferred forward operating sites throughout the country to the 50th RSG, a National Guard unit from Homestead, Florida.
In his remarks as outgoing commander, Col. Matthew Schell, the 297th RSG commander, highlighted the American/Polish partnership to an audience of Soldiers from the 297th and 50th RSGs, Polish military and local citizens.
“Our deployment, just a little headquarters doing base operations, had an oversized impact,” Schell said. “Every time we solved a problem together, we showed Poland why the U.S. is a good ally to have. Every time we advanced a quality of life improvement project, we showed U.S. commitment and resolve in Europe. With every effort at the individual level to improve our relationship with our allies, we show our competitors, and others, that we’re disciplined, ready, and capable.”
Schell went on to emphasize the effectiveness of deterrence, noting that the 297th RSG’s presence in Poland represented the United States’ ability to defend its interests and support its international partners. As a headquarters unit of only 80 Soldiers, the 297th “kept the lights on” for thousands of American and allied forces, which helped make them a combat-credible deterrence force.
Over the past nine months, 297th RSG – operated forward operating sites have accommodated approximately 8,600 U.S. troops supporting major international training exercises, such as Defender 20, and Resolute Castle 20. The Office of Contract Services for all the FOSes has processed 49 Letters of Justification, and five theater contract overviews with approximately seven more in progress to lay gravel on roads, and pave parking lots. The Directorate of Public Works helped inventory, package and safely prepare over 21 tons of hazardous waste for disposal, making the FOSes a relatively hazardous waste-free area. The 297th RSG POLAND Sexual Harassment/Assault Response Program team wrote the first Poland-wide standard operating procedure and worked with U.S. Army Europe to improve the SHARP Program. The SHARP Team has trained over 1000 U.S. Soldiers on policies and programs and organized SHARP events that have drawn interest from NATO allies who are considering integrating similar programs.
During the ceremony, Maj. Gen. Christopher O. Mohan, commanding general of 21st Theatre Sustainment Command, praised the accomplishments of the 297th RSG and said they did an outstanding job under challenging circumstances.
“Thank you for meeting those challenges and excelling at your efforts”, Mohan said. “You head back to Alaska having made an indelible impact on our ability to foster security and prosperity regionally, throughout Europe and the world”.
Col. Ricardo Roig, commander of the 50th RSG, said that his Soldiers are ready to continue U.S. efforts to strengthen ties with the Polish military and European allies as well as reaffirm U.S. commitment to European security. Roig drew comparisons between Miami’s exile communities fleeing communism from across the Americas and Eastern Europe.
“We are proud of our unique connection and we are proud to be adding a new chapter to our shared history,” Roig said.