Friday, May 8, 2009

U.S., European range experts to assess Romanian facilities

By Seth Robson, Stars and Stripes

AMBERG, Germany — The people who build and maintain live-fire ranges for the U.S. Army in Europe plan to visit eastern Europe this year to advise Romanians on ways to modernize their ranges that American forces share during summer training.

Romanian Ministry of Defense representatives were in Amberg this week, along with about 130 U.S., British, Czech, Norwegian, Italian and German professionals involved in range operations, for the seventh annual Sustainable Range Program Workshop.

Stephen Kennedy, manager of the U.S. Army Europe Range and Training Land Program and among a large contingent of Americans at the U.S.-run conference, said he plans to visit Romania ahead of this summer’s Joint Task Force East training rotation to eastern Europe.

"The Romanian government has asked me to go there and assess the training areas and ranges," he said.

"It is just to give them advice and assistance to modernize and improve their ranges for future use," said Kennedy, who heads the organization responsible for building and maintaining U.S. live-fire ranges in Europe.

Kennedy said the exact amount of training land available for U.S. forces in Romania and Bulgaria is confidential.

In recent years U.S. troops have trained at Romania’s Babadag Training Area, which consists of open sandy grasslands, and Bulgaria’s mountainous Novo Selo Training Area.

The eastern areas are geared toward training for larger company- and battalion-size units, whereas U.S. training focuses on individual soldiers, squads and platoons, he said.

And work on improving the Romanian ranges will be geared toward that nation’s training requirements rather that something designed to cater to the U.S. Army’s needs, he said.

However, the Romanians are interested in some of the same things that U.S. forces train for, such as urban combat operations, he said.

"They are interested in … our planning and design process for ranges, and we will try to give them some advice on how these things can be done in their own operations," he said.

The U.S. Army’s Integrated Training Area Management Program manager, Nate Whelan, whose organization maps U.S. training areas in Europe and mitigates the environmental impact of training, said this year’s training in eastern Europe will be done "smartly" to minimize the impact on the environment.

"They (the Romanians and Bulgarians) have their environmental focus and we are working closely with them so we know what is there (in terms of the ecology of the training areas) as a baseline," he said.

Romanian delegates at the range workshop include a representative of the Ministry of Defense Environmental Department and an expert on international agreements, he said.

The Romanian delegates did not respond to an interview request.

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