News & Updates
Gerald Kochan receives Polish Gold Cross of Merit
At the convening of the UN General Assembly in late September, Polish Ambassador to the UN presented the Gold Cross of Merit to Gerald Kochan, Colonel (ret.), Director of the Polish American Museum and Center for Military Studies on behalf of Polish President Andrzej Duda. He was one of two to receive the prestigious award, the other being from the United Kingdom, Ms. Melissa John.
Ambassador Winid presenting the Gold Cross of Merit to Gerald Kochan as the official orders are cited by the First Secretary of the Polish Mission to the UN.
He received the medal for work alongside the Polish Army while serving as a US Army officer in Iraq and other locations. Gerald Kochan was also commended for his work in making Polish History both more accessible to the North American continent through documentaries, exhibits and multimedia projects and his work directing CMS and PAM. Among the well wishers attending the ceremony were President of the Board of the Polish American Museum, Ms. Barbara Szydlowski and Colonel Richard Jung, who serves on the board of the Center for Military Studies.
Colonel Kochan, President Barbara Szydlowski and Colonel Jung
Gulf War 25th Anniversary
January 2016 marks the 25th anniversary of the Gulf War. Not only was it the most massive American military effort since the Vietnam War but the first time since World War 2 that Polish and U.S. soldiers would serve together in a combat zone. It was a time of great change and upheaval. Poland was throwing off its communist yoke with the first Solidarity members of government and its military was making its first moves to the West. Allies on the ground included Syrian combat troops, now a force under attack by the other U.S. allies such as Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Kurds with our support.
1st Cavalry Division honored the first commander of the U.S. Continental Cavalry, the Polish volunteer Casimir Pulaski with a forward area TTP named after him. CPT Kochan is couldn't resist a picture next to the sign.
While serving in the War, then Captain Gerald Kochan, now our CMS director visited some injured troops from his unit at KKMC just prior to the initiation of his unit's involvement in the ground war. Much to his surprise and delight a Polish Army Medical unit was providing support there. Adding to the spirit of finding "lost family" was that the Liaison Officer attached to the unit was an Engineer Officer from the Polish Airborne Brigade, Lieutenant Colonel Aksamet. Captain Kochan's own airborne background coupled with the fact his father had served with the Polish Airborne during WW2, and like most Polish soldiers serving in the West didn't return home after after the Soviet sponsored communist takeover postwar, led to a strong camaraderie between the Poles and Americans.
Day 1 of the ground war, moving forward against Iraqi positions against a backdrop of burning oil wells, shell fire and intense smoke.
Since then, Poles have served along our troops in Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan as well as being admitted to NATO. It was this experience of getting the Poles recognized for NATO membership that led to the founding of CMS. A relationship that Gerald Kochan personally watched grow during subsequent deployments following the Gulf War. Today as Russia again flexes its military muscle under President Putin the mission of CMS remains to remind the U.S.A. of the support it has received from its Polish allies and moral obligations to support them in turn.
A temporary exhibit will be displayed at the Annex marking the 25th anniversary of the Gulf War and joint Polish American military operations.
Sharing Easter lunch with the Polish medical unit after return to KKMC in April from forward operations.
The return of the Polish Medical Mission home as did most of our forces except for those U.S. Forces remaining to enforce the cease fire and protect the Kurds during operation Provide Comfort.
Captain Kochan far right with Syrian, Saudi and Egyptian troops providing security at a forward area Tactical Operation Center
Prior to the War Britain, France and the Warsaw Pact had provided equipment to the Iraqi Army. This T-72 captured during the fighting was manufactured by Poland and is on its way to allied lines. It's data plate was retained by Captain Kochan (pictured in front of it) and is part of the CMS collection while the tank can now be seen at Ft. Benning, Georgia.
Day 2 of the Ground War the road north from Kuwait city
Captain Kochan and one of his Lieutenants alongside soldiers of 2nd Regt. French Foreign Legion on a joint operation in West Iraq. ( additional irony, the Corporal front right was of Polish birth )