What awaits Poland's stabilization troops in Iraq?

26-07-2003

Another unit of Polish soldiers has just left for Iraq to serve in the international stabilization force. Poland has been given the task of re-stabilizing the central- south section of Iraq from the Iranian to the Saudi border. A visit to a military base south of Warsaw, as the servicemen prepare to leave for their mission.

I'm standing at the landing strip right now and I'm looking at least three choppers during circular maneuvers here. I understand that these choppers are similar to the ones that are in Iraq. What type of choppers are these and what will these choppers be doing?

Soldier 1 "these are the W3W Falcons, the main choppers we use here. They are multi-mission utility choppers so they could be used as a support slash Attack choppers."

This commando from the elite 25th airborne armored cavalry brigade picked 60 men to go to Iraq. The 25th brigade has been specially trained to be Nato compatible. The unit consists of computer experts, helicopter pilots and rapid reaction force commandos But each of the soldiers, like this one, realizes that their mission could be full of surprises.

Soldier 1 "Even though we are in a stabilization peace mission, so to speak, there have been a few attacks on American troops especially. So we are preparing for contingencies like that too, as a quick reaction force. We've been training the relief and place of units that could be under attack. I'm quite thankful but I can do it because I've been trained by Americans. Personally I have a sense of debt towards the Americans and it's a great opportunity for me to pay off my debts."

This logistics expert frankly told me that he volunteered for this mission for financial reasons.

Soldier 2 "I will earn more money than in Poland. From, my point of view, it will be better for my family, especially when we talk about salary. I will earn one thousand American dollars, a month of course."

This soldier says that he is going to Iraq as a peace- keeper, and not as a man of war. His wife, though, isn't particularly pleased.

Soldier 3 "She feels not good due to the situation because I've just become a father. I have a daughter. She is only two days old and after tomorrow I'm going to Iraq and we will go there as peacekeepers."

Poland's mission of helping to create a democratic Iraq may be somewhat of an uphill struggle in the Polish central south sector of Iraq which is 90% Shiite Moslem. Many Shiite leaders have already said they regard the Poles as aggressors, along with the Americans. But Professor Janusz Danecki, an expert in Islamic studies at Warsaw University, argues the Poles have things going in their favor.

Professor Danecki "I think there might be some sort of similarity in our Polish-Slav spirit and the Arabic-Iraqi attitude towards life. Something as easy going and trying to find the hardships of life and thinking over them, but trying to find pleasure in everything like one can. Our experience in building a country after 1989, coming from a communist system to a system of a united Europe, democratic system, we know it and we can help them."

The Polish men in Iraq are hoping to build on the positive image their countrymen gained there in the 70s and 80s while building Iraqi infrastructure as engineers and contract workers. But for the Polish volunteers, Iraq brings a personal opportunity for adventure, and a decent pay packet.

26-07-2003