Meet Lt Col Piotr Wachna, a Polish chemical weapons expert, at the center of the COVID-19 fight
Lt Col Piotr Wachna is a deputy commander at the 4th Chemical Regiment of the Polish army based in Brodnica in north-central Poland. This regiment is considered to be the elite in the area of protection against chemical weapons.
Lt Col Piotr Wachna at the 4th Polish Chemical Regiment headquarters in Brodnica, Poland. © Polish MoD.
“I am responsible for all activities undertaken by the 4th Chemical Regiment,” explains Lt Col Piotr Wachna. “I manage the resources designated to tackle the coronavirus pandemic and I am in contact with other military and civil entities/institutions involved in the fight against COVID-19.” Piotr plans everyday tasks conducted by the disinfection teams based on the needs reported to them by hospitals and other institutions.
Their work is impressive. Every day, Piotr and his team disinfect hospitals, offices, airports, aircraft, vehicles, as well as other public buildings like the Polish Parliament. “No matter how tired we are and the coronavirus-related risk, we are always ready to engage in the next task,” he says.
Recently, they disinfected two hospitals in Wolomin and Plonsk and several military and civilian emergency vehicles used to transport COVID-19 patients. “I am impressed by the dedication and commitment of our soldiers to the fight against COVID-19 and to saving people’s lives,” says Piotr. “They are putting themselves in danger and risking their own health while conducting their tasks.”
According to Piotr, the biggest task is to maintain readiness and to be able to contain the spread of COVID-19. As chemical military forces, Piotr and his team are trained to minimalise the risk of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) threats. “For us right now is the time for action in the conditions of real threat. We have been and still are training for these kind of actions,” says Piotr.
Being part of NATO’s CBRN Defence Task Force
This year, Piotr also commands NATO’s Combined Joint CBRN Defence Task Force. This NATO body is specifically trained and equipped to deal with CBRN events and/or attacks against NATO populations, territory or forces. Piotr was 25 years old when his country joined NATO in 1999. He really values this international cooperation between Allies.
“Through international cooperation, we have the opportunity to enhance operating standards and expand our abilities. The current situation allows us to verify the procedures in place as well as to gain new expertise related to operating in COVID-19 environment,” says Piotr.
To meet the challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Piotr and his team cooperate closely with subordinate branches in Poland as well as with NATO Allies in other countries. “ We constantly monitor the situation and assess the impact of COVID-19 on our tasks and duties,” explains Piotr.
Piotr’s family is proud of his work and commitment. “They know that my work serves the safety of other people and helps minimalise the effects of the pandemic. In recent years I have been a guest in my own home due to deployments but my family understands it.”
In his spare time, Piotr enjoys listening to classical music like Chopin and reading the literature of the Romantic era. He also likes gardening. “It allows me to decompress and forget for a while about my work and tasks in my everyday service.”
Despite the current situation, Piotr is positive about the future. “Optimism and faith are very important. We need to believe that ‘it will be better’ and look bravely into the future with a wide smile,” concludes Piotr.