Monday, November 9, 2009
Working toward a common goal
by Sgt. Jessica Switzer
Hometown News Service , last modified November 07. 2009
MIHAIL KOGALNICEANU AIR BASE, Romania — Nearly 40 years ago, murals depicting the glory of the Soviet military were freshly painted at the Novo Selo training area in Bulgaria.
Today, 20 years after the end of the Cold War, they are flaking, subdued images of a bygone era.
Army Pvt. 2nd Class Christopher J. Hemwall is faced with these reminders of the Cold War and the difficulties of conducting U.S. Army business in a foreign nation as a member of Joint Task Force — East, a multinational group designed to make stronger allies of Romania and Bulgaria. The operation hones the skills of soldiers from all three nations as well as helps the people living in some of the poorest areas of the two European countries.
Pvt. 2nd Class Hemwall, the son of James and Michelle Hemwall of Monroe, is a cavalry scout with the 4th Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment in Vilseck, Germany, and is currently deployed to Romania to support the task force, based at Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base, Romania.
“My duties are to help train and work alongside our Romanian allies,” said the 2008 Jefferson High School graduate. “ training our NATO allies, we not only help them become better soldiers, but we get better as well. It also helps us build up our relations with other countries.”
Soldiers from all three countries trained together in individual and company-level movements as well as with armored vehicles and a variety of weapons. They also practiced the coordination needed to go into and clear a hostile urban area. In addition to the training, the soldiers took time to visit a number of local villages and allowed children to explore the vehicles they were using.
“We are currently learning how to work as a platoon in a combat environment — starting with operation orders and continuing through troop leading procedures, maneuvers and execution,” said Pvt. 2nd Class Hemwall. “Our Romanian counterparts are working right next to us the whole time.”
Military training wasn’t the only reason American service members were in Romania and Bulgaria. A group of doctors and nurses traveled to several villages around the training bases in both countries. The team worked with local health care workers and translators to provide screenings for optical and other general health concerns. There was also a team of Navy Seabees helping renovate and upgrade local schools and medical facilities.
In spite of the language barrier and cultural differences, the American soldiers and their Bulgarian or Romanian counterparts usually were able to get their messages across.
“The language barrier can be difficult,” said Pvt. 2nd Class Hemwall, who has been in the Army for a year. “But we all have the same goal in mind, so we learned to work through it.”
Whether building new schools, bringing medical services to villages or practicing the art of war, Romanian, Bulgarian and American service members, such as Pvt. 2nd Class Hemwall, are working to keep the positive relationships going long after everyone has gone home. The relationships built on the training ground will go a long way toward making sure the three nations can work together seamlessly.