- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Thousands of U.S. and Polish troops will be on maneuvers next month in the first large-scale war games in Europe since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Exercise Allied Spirit, a joint U.S.-Polish undertaking, will be held June 5-19 at the Drawsko Pomorskie Training Area, located about 150 miles northeast of Berlin in eastern Poland.

The operation had been part of DEFENDER-Europe 20, which was intended to gauge the ability of the U.S. to move a division-sized force from the U.S. to a training area in Europe. DEFENDER-Europe 20 was significantly curtailed because of COVID-19 fears.

“All COVID-19 precautionary measures will be taken to insure the health and protection of participating armed forces and the local population,” U.S. Army Europe officials said in a statement.

Military officials did not detail which COVID-19 mitigation efforts were being undertaken for the training.

The U.S. troops in the maneuvers will come from the 1st Cavalry Division; the 3rd Infantry Division and the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team. The Polish soldiers are assigned to the 9th Polish Cavalry Brigade, the 6th Polish Airborne Brigade and the 12th Polish Mechanized Brigade, officials said.

DEFENDER-Europe 20 was modified in March when movement orders from the U.S. to Europe were stopped. Some of the missions were cancelled.

More than 90 percent of the military equipment bound for Europe had already been loaded on ships or aircraft when the deployments were suspended. More than 6,000 U.S. troops and 3,000 pieces of equipment have arrived in Europe.

“Despite the adjustments to the exercise due to COVID-19, many of the strategic objectives were met,” Army officials said.

U.S. Army Europe is planning additional maneuvers over the next few months, utilizing much of the original training objectives from DEFENDER-Europe 20. For instance, the 173rd Airborne Brigade is planning to hold training parachute operations in the Balkans and Black Sea region in the near term future. The 10th Army Air & Missile Defense Command and 41st Field Artillery Brigade are expected to join exercises in the Baltic region, officials said.

“Details of these training events are still under development and subject to change,” officials said.

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