ORZYSZ, Poland – Soldiers from the Illinois Army National Guard’s 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (33rd IBCT) in Urbana, Illinois, and the 244th Digital Liaison Detachment in Chicago, participated in the largest multi-national military training exercise in Polish history, Sept. 24 to Oct. 4.
Anaconda 14 involved nearly 13,000 Soldiers from nine nations throughout the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and was conducted at various sites throughout Poland. The 33rd IBCT participated in the event through a tactical operation center exercise from the Orzysz training area. The brigade worked closely with the 12th Mechanized Division from the Polish Army, as well as brigades from Lithuania and the Czech Republic.
Maj. Gen. Marek Mecherzynski, the commanding officer of the Polish Army’s 12th Mechanized Division, said the exercise tested unified operations between the nations involved.
“The goals of the exercise were achieved on all levels,” said Mecherzynski during the closing ceremony of the exercise.
The Illinois National Guard partnered with Poland more than 20 years ago. During the exercise the 33rd IBCT helped the brigade expand on that partnership.
Col. Mark Jackson of Frankfort, Illinois, 33rd IBCT commander, said the Illinois Soldiers learned lessons involving the partnership.
“We took away some integration experience with other national organizations and countries,” said Jackson.
The exercise also gave the brigade a chance to collaborate with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team (BCT), 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) as two Soldiers from the 101st worked with the 33rd IBCT.
Jackson believes the first test of this new partnership went very well.
“I think we got great dividends,” Jackson said. “I like the way they just found themselves naturally integrated even though they hadn’t worked with us before.”
Capt. Corey Wilson, the assistant operations officer for the 2nd BCT, 101st Airborne worked with Soldiers from the 33rd IBCT. He said it was his first time working with a National Guard brigade and he can see the advantage of the partnership between the two brigades.
“I think both parties will benefit a lot,” Wilson said.
Wilson said working with the 33rd IBCT increased his knowledge and respect for the National Guard.
This event marks the end of Jackson’s command of the 33rd IBCT. Following the exercise, Jackson relinquished command of the 33rd IBCT to the new commander, Col. Henry S. Dixon of Chicago.
“It was bittersweet,” Jackson said. “What a great one to go out on.”