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Teaming up with Polish Soldiers

By Staff Sgt. Wallace Bonner | 2ND ABCT, 1ST INF. DIV. PUBLIC AFFAIRS | November 17, 2017

ZAGAN, Poland — Soldiers from the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, played alongside Polish basketball players in an exhibition game in front of an audience of community members in Zary, Poland, Nov. 9 in an early celebration of Poland’s Independence Day Nov. 11.

    “We have the American and the Polish players integrated on each of the teams; they’re here having a great time with some good sportsmanship,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Craig A. Copridge, 2nd ABCT’s senior noncommissioned officer. “It’s a great opportunity for us to come out and be a part of the community.”

      The 2nd ABCT is deployed to Central Europe in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve. They are the second iteration of “heel-to-toe” rotations of an armored brigade combat team designed to provide a continuous armored presence in Europe.

      The Polish players were all part of a semi-professional basketball team. The teams were mixed to promote cohesion between the Soldiers and the Polish players. While the teams were mixed, one team was coached by two Soldiers and the other by two Polish coaches.

     The evening started off with the playing of the American and Polish national anthems and a warm-up period for the players. The game consisted of four 10-minute quarters, with a halftime three-point shooting competition consisting of members of both teams.

      “For the junior Soldiers, any time you can do something outside of work where you can have fun and see how other nations play basketball, it’s a great opportunity,” Copridge said.

      Sgt. Demetri Richardson, a wheeled mechanic with the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd ABCT, and basketball team member, enjoyed his time on the court.

      “I love Poland,” Richardson said. “I love the country, I love the food and I love the basketball games.”

      This is Richardson’s first deployment, and the community involvement wasn’t something he anticipated.

      “I didn’t picture it like this, playing basketball and soccer and all this, but I love sports and I love how we come together to be a team,” Richardson said.

     Maj. Rocknee Gardner, 2nd ABCT assistant engineer and basketball team member, was also excited to play with the Polish people in the local community.

      “It builds relationships with the Polish and lets the community see us up close and personal,” Gardner said.

      Gardner also appreciated his time in Poland on a personal level and said it’s been a new learning experience.

      For many Soldiers, this deployment is different than others they have experienced, such as in Iraq and Afghani­stan. Copridge said that this deployment was different in a good way.

      “Never before have I been able to visit the surrounding communities like I have here in Zary, Zagan and all the other places,” Copridge said.

      “Our ‘Big Red One’ Soldiers are out here having a great time and will continue to do great things with our Polish allies.”