ARLINGTON, Va. – “We are deeply moved by the incredible act of kindness and support from our friends from Poland who are joining us here in Chicago to share their experience and expertise in fighting [COVID-19] and offering to lend a hand in some of the local hospitals,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Richard Neely, the Illinois adjutant general, said April 29.
In a telephone briefing for reporters at the Pentagon, Neely also noted this is just the latest example of the excellent Polish-U.S. military relationship that goes back to 1993 through the National Guard’s State Partnership Program.
Neely was joined by Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas Hatley, the vice director of strategy, plans, policy and international affairs for the National Guard Bureau, and Polish Military Medical Corps Capt. (Dr.) Jacek Siewiera.
From April 23 to May 2, a nine-member Polish medical team consisting of doctors, nurses and emergency medical technicians is visiting hospitals throughout the Chicago area, Siewiera said.
Polish medical personnel recently treated COVID-19 patients in Italy and Poland, and are sharing lessons learned and best practices from their fight against the coronavirus working with state medical professionals, Siewiera said, adding that his team has received an outstanding reception from the Guard and U.S. medical personnel.
“We have fought side by side for many years, and now we fight this pandemic together,” Neely said, noting that Polish and Illinois National Guard troops have fought together in numerous Iraq and Afghanistan deployments.
Since 1993, the Illinois National Guard has had more than 400 training events with the Polish military, Neely said, creating good interoperability. The Illinois Guard and the Poles also both fly F-16 Fighting Falcon jets and C-130 Hercules aircraft, he said.
Junior officers in both nations who trained together decades ago are now some of the most senior leaders in the two militaries, so a close personal relationship exists throughout the ranks, he added.
It is particularly important that Poland was selected as Illinois’ partner nation, Neely said. Chicago has the largest number of people outside of Poland tracing their ancestry to that nation, he explained.
The State Partnership Program has grown to 89 nations, Hatley noted, with every state partnering with a different nation or nations. This relationship is invaluable because it helps build trust, partner capacity and interoperability, he said.