Soldiers from the Military University of Land Forces prevailed in the standings of military universities in the Italian Raid Commando. Poles competed with 44 military teams from all over the world. The contestants competed in a dozen or so categories in which they were supposed to shoot, make a checkpoint, set a trap, and provide first aid on the battlefield, among other things.

Italian Raid Commando is one of the most difficult competitions taking place in the mountains in Europe. It is held once a year in Lombardy, Italy, and its participants include soldiers from military universities, combat troops, and reservists. This year’s and 32nd edition, which took place between 24 and 26 May 2018, was joined by 44 teams from all over the world. The British, Germans, the Dutch, Belgians, Lithuanians, the Swiss, Spaniards, and Estonians came to Italy, to name a few. Poles, soldiers from the Military University of Land Forces in Wrocław, came to compete as well. However, as opposed to the previous years, when the university had been represented by cadets, the team was now composed of the teaching staff of the University, soldiers from the Specialist Training Department of the Command Institute. They were the lecturers: Maj. Mirosław Halot, Cpt. Dawid Ząbek, Cpt. Piotr Stykowski, and the instructor Warrant Officer Class 2 Robert Lisiecki. “I have already taken part in three editions of the competition, but my team mates are making their debuts. However, they certainly have immense experience gained during missions abroad,” said Cpt. Stykowski, a climbing and skiing instructor.

The teams had not had much time for preparation. “There was no mention of practising together. Luckily, we were in a good shape as we spend five months a year on average at the “Wysoki Kamień” Training Centre in Szklarska Poręba, where we conduct regular training as well as summer or winter courses for professional soldiers. We also have practical classes with officer cadets, during which we teach climbing, survival and organising reconnaissance patrols in the mountains,” said Cpt. Stykowski.

The two-day competition started, as usual, at the target range. The participants were supposed to fire six shots using various kinds of weapons. They could use a sniper rifle, a carbine, and a handgun, among other things. “We fired shots aiming at accuracy, concentration, and time, but we also shot as a group, all at the same time. This was the first task for which points were awarded. We did very well,” said Cpt. Ząbek, a SERE instructor.

At midnight, over 170 participants set off to march along the march route. Each soldier carried a backpack weighing no less than 10 kilograms and containing: climbing equipment, GPS, a torch, some clothes, food and beverages, among other things. The march route was 43 km long. “The idea behind the march is to complete it in the shortest time possible. There were no breaks for rest or sleep, because the final score could depend on a single minute,” said Maj. Mirosław Halot, a SERE and parachuting instructor.

During the march, the contestants had to carry out various tasks: cross a river or prepare an assault on an object indicated by the organisers. But that is not all. The participants had to prepare an observation checkpoint and a trap for an armed group as well as prove that they could apply the Medevac procedure. “This task was prepared in a very professional manner. During the patrol, we came across a wounded person whose make-up was so good that we were convinced that he was really badly injured. We had to classify his injuries, administer first aid, and radio for Medevac,” said Warrant Officer Class 2 Lisiecki, a SERE and climbing instructor.

Afterwards, the soldiers continued the march. “It could seem that, since I was taking part in the competition for another time, things would be easier for me. But, each year, the tasks are different and the specifics of tasks were provided to us just before we were to perform them. Besides, the organisers like surprising us with new things. For instance, this year, we were asked to make a checkpoint,” said Cpt. Stykowski. The participants’ task was to stop a vehicle, search it, and, depending on their findings, react appropriately. The Polish soldiers found weapons and grenades, so they needed to apprehend the suspects.

The organisers took the contestants by surprise at the very end of the march, which had already lasted a dozen hours or so. A car drew up to pick us up, and the driver, to our knowledge, was supposed to drive us to the gathering place. However, as it turned out, three more tasks were yet awaiting us. After the strenuous effort already made, we had to muster up our strength once again,” said Cpt. Stykowski.

First, the car which the contestants were riding fell into a trap and afterwards the soldiers had to prove themselves in providing first aid. The last three kilometres before the finish line were designed as a time-oriented part of the route – one had to run it as fast as possible. The Polish team reached the finish line around 4 pm.

According to Warrant Officer Class 2 Lisiecki, the tasks were not very difficult, however, the terrain in which the contestants had to compete was a challenge. “The competition takes place in the mountains, somewhere near the Alps. This terrain is characterised by great altitude differences and ascents at two thousand metres. The strain was tremendous,” said Warrant Officer Class 2 Lisiecki. The lack of water was also getting to the contestants. Unfortunately, the maps which we had been provided turned out to be out-of-date. They showed a large number of watercourses, so we took only 2 litres of water for each of us. As it turned out, it was quite dry and most of the streams had dried up,” said Cpt. Stykowski. In addition, one could not always rely on GPS. In the mountains, it is sometimes not able to show a distance accurately. And, in a competition like that, 40-50 metres are much of a difference. Luckily, we had an excellent topographer among us,” said Cpt. Stykowski. The Poles’ other strengths were good physical condition as well as shooting and tactical skills. However, as Warrant Officer Class 2 Lisiecki observed, the final success resulted from other factors as well. “We were able to make up a nice and well-integrated team. We supported and motivated one another all the time. And, although we were very tired, we endured with fortitude,” he emphasised.

What could have the Polish team done better? “We made mistakes in those areas to which we paid less attention, which is the time limit for filling in reports. We had 5 minutes to prepare the last one, which we wanted to do as best as we could, and, as a result, were 30 seconds late. If we had done better with that task, we could have had chance for a higher place in the general standings,” said Cpt. Stykowski.

Finally, the representatives of the AWL were the first among all military universities and the fifth in the general standings. This is the best score a Polish team has ever achieved in the history of this competition.

Author: Paulina Glińska

Photos: AWL


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