Watch: Inside a Tactical Operations Center in Poland, American Soldiers Train to Defend

In the middle of the woods in below-freezing temperature, several hundred American soldiers trained furiously on a Polish military base in conditions they may someday have to fight in — in the middle of the European winter defending NATO territory. A small group of reporters, including from Breitbart News, were recently allowed to go behind the scenes into a U.S. Army war-planning command post, known as a tactical operations center (TOC), consisting of a large main tent and several smaller tents that could be quickly set up in expeditionary field conditions. Indeed, this one was set up amid a clearing on top of mud and snow. In the center of the main tent was the “command node,” essentially several tables surrounding a giant map with markers and a large digital screen, all designed to give everyone a common operating picture in both analog and digital. Around the command node were sections dedicated to everything needed to run an expeditionary command post of a few hundred soldiers 24 hours a day, including: human resources, health support, weather forecasting, engineering, logistics, air and ground weapons systems, electronic and non-lethal warfare, biological and chemical warfare detection, legal support, and tech support. There was also a section specifically for allies, where several Estonian soldiers were spotted sitting and walking about. Allies could also sit with their counterparts at any of the specific sections. There was a smaller tent attached for the commanding general and staff, which had a giant map mirroring the one at the command node. There were also separate tents for intelligence and planning personnel. The entry to the intelligence section was conspicuously closed off from the main floor. The soldiers, who were mainly from the 1st Infantry Division (1ID) based in Fort Riley, Kansas, were in the midst of carrying out Command Post Exercise Winter Strike, where they were given various simulated scenarios over several weeks in the field to test their war-fighting readiness and skills in real-world fighting conditions. “We train as we fight. And so everywhere that we fight isn’t necessarily comfy and cozy,” said Army Sgt. Maj. Stephanie Rodriguez, the 1ID’s operations sergeant major. “It’s a very unique environment to operate in,” added Army Capt. Kamilah Cruz, the 1ID’s signals, intelligence, and sustainment company commander. “This is a mission that you really can’t simulate back home in Fort Riley. You can’t really simulate NATO allies back home, you can’t really work with the Estonians, Latvians, Romanians, and all these other countries that we work here in Europe with.”

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