I've spent the past couple of days a bit further south, in the beautiful and historic city of Krakow with all the Chiefs of Defense from the Central European countries. But we've come up to Lask to celebrate a new step in the US - Polish military relationship: an enduring aviation detachment to support combined fighter and transport operations.
The idea is to keep a small number of our US airmen "on the ground" in Poland, while we rotate in F-16 fighters and C-130 transport aircraft for mutual training together. This is the first full time presence of US service members in Poland.
In a sense, this deployment celebrates over two centuries of Polish-US defense cooperation -- most of us in the US military know very well the story of Count Casimir Pulaski, who came to help the fledgling US military as it was organized during the American revolution. And we can recall the courage of Polish troops who fought alongside US soldiers in World War II to liberate the continent from the Nazis.
More recent cooperation between the two militaries covers a wide range of activity, from combat in Iraq, the Balkans, and Afghanistan; to European missile defense. The new aircraft detachment will execute four annual aircraft rotations operating for a minimum of two week deployments -- this will allow for a rich mix of bilateral, NATO, and multi-lateral exercises and training.
The opening ceremony featured appearances and speeches by the very senior leadership of Poland, including both their Minister of Defense Tomasz Siemoniak and 4-star Chief of Defense, Army General Mieczyslaw Cieniuch. Our new US Ambassador to Poland, career diplomat Steve Mull, gave an excellent speech in perfect, fluent Polish, the result of his two prior postings to Warsaw. Assistant Secretary of Defense Derek Chollet represented Secretary Panetta ably as well, although -- like me -- his Polish is limited to a hearty "Dziekue" or Thank You!
As I mentioned in a talk at the opening ceremony, today's new deployment matches two nations in techonology, tactics, and -- above all -- people-to-people. And as we all know, personal contact trumps everything: especially with strong, historic allies like Poland.
Supreme Allied Commander, Europe
Commander, US European Command