Concealed among thick foliage, soldiers patiently scanned the water’s edge through the scopes of their M4 carbines. When the signal was given, dismounted troops quietly slipped into the frigid, flowing water and secured the far side of the river.
Then they made way for the M1A2 Abrams tanks to ford through.
On Wednesday, Aug. 24, Soldiers of Company D, 3rd Combined Arms Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, joined forces with Polish Soldiers of the 10th Armoured Cavalry Brigade, 11th Armoured Division, to conduct a river crossing exercise at Zagan Training Area, Poland.
At a break in the tree line, Polish engineers deployed two armored vehicle-launched bridges to span the width of the waterway. Then the additional forces crossed, including two U.S. crews mounted in M2A2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles and Polish crews in BMP infantry fighting vehicles.
“We were able to see how (the Polish forces’) tactics and our tactics mesh together to accomplish the mission,” said Staff Sgt. Brian Gougler, squad leader, D Company, 3-69 AR. “It was a good mixture allowing everyone to have a say in what was happening.”
Planning and communication played a significant role in the preparation and success of the exercise explained Gougler. The day prior, they had walked through the plan in an open field. Now that the Soldiers were tackling the unfamiliar terrain, the operation was going smoothly.
“The weekly syncs that the commander, the command groups, and the interpreters have with the Polish command group have been instrumental in allowing us to come out here and do the things we do,” said 1st Sgt. Mark Martin, senior enlisted advisor, D Company, 3-69 AR.
When a new mission arises downrange, Soldiers must be ready to link up with other countries and tackle problems they may have never seen or planned for, Gougler said. For many of the Soldiers, this was their first time conducting a water crossing.
“If we were ever to be in a combat situation, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a water crossing, (Polish and U.S. forces now) both have a better understanding of how the other works,” Gougler said.
“The water crossing was just today’s task.”