WARSAW, POLAND (02/10/2015)(readMedia)-- Five Soldiers with the Illinois Army National Guard Recruiting and Retention Battalion in Springfield, Illinois travelled to Warsaw, Poland from 26 to 30 January for a workshop aimed at best practices between the partner nations at Poland's Armed Forces Operational Command.

Brig. Gen. Andrzej Tuz, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, Armed Forces Operational Command, addressed the group on the opening day to share ideas and build upon the partnership between Poland and Illinois. The workshop focused on adapting Illinois' models for recruiting, retention, marketing, and attrition management to Poland's Armed Forces recruitment. In 2008, Poland ended mandatory conscription into its armed forces. Poland started its National Reserve Forces in 2010, and has experienced the challenges associated with recruiting.

"We see the same challenges here," said Command Sgt. Maj. Stephen Donaldson, of Chatham, Illinois, Recruiting and Retention Battalion Command Sergeant Major. "They understand where they are currently and where they want to go, but also understand that it will take time to get there."

Personnel from the Polish Armed Forces Operational Command gave a general overview of their force structure and function of not only the active component, but also the National Reserve Forces. Personnel discussed how Poland's Operational and General Commands operate as part of the Ministry of National Defense.

Aleksandra Szmitkowska and Grzegorz Romanski of the Ministry's Department of Education and Defense Promotion discussed recruiting ideas and campaigns and how they are seeking quality over quantity when it comes to recruits. Donaldson and Maj. Darren Horton, of Williamsville, Illinois, Recruiting and Retention Battalion Enlisted Accessions Officer in Charge, followed by giving a presentation on retention, sponsorship programs in the Illinois National Guard, and the importance and effectiveness of proper retention counseling.

Sgt. Maj. Allen Morrison, of Rochester, Illinois, Enlisted Accessions Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge, gave an overview of the Illinois National Guard's recruiting strategy and target audience. Lt. Col. Daniel Reichen, of Springfield, Illinois, Recruiting and Retention Battalion Commander, said his Polish counterparts were receptive to the idea of leveraging high schools and centers of influence within that demographic to increase recruiting.

"We sell ourselves as the component of choice. Our partners were very interested in how we take a 'community first, nation always' approach to marketing the Guard," said Reichen.

Reichen said the U.S. military, the Illinois National Guard, and Poland all face the same challenges.

"We're always trying to do the same three things: man, train, and equip the force. Our partners in Poland have the same goals and are looking for the best practices to do the same," he said.

Reichen said the workshop was successful and a great partnership opportunity, but said future opportunities to work with the Polish National Reserve Forces should not be limited to recruiting practices.

"I think that the next step is not only talking the recruiting piece, but how we man and train personnel in the reserve component, involving the personnel and operations branches in a workshop may be incredibly useful to our partners," he said.