Wednesday, May 12, 2010

U.S. Marines, Sailors arrive in Romania

5/10/2010 By Staff Sgt. Christopher Flurry , Black Sea Rotational Force

MIHAIL KOGALNICEANU AIRFIELD, Romania
BLACK SEA ROTATIONAL FORCE MARKS FIRST OF ITS KIND DEPLOYMENT IN REGION

Marines and Sailors put boots on the ground in Romania, May 8, and stepped into history as the first Security Cooperation Marine Air Ground Task Force in the Black Sea region.

The main body of troops forming Black Sea Rotational Force 2010 arrived to Romania’s Mihail Kogalniceanu Airfield; a move Marine officials said will foster an increased friendship between U.S. and partner nations.

U.S. troops are deployed here to participate in cooperative activities with partner nations in the Caucasus, Balkan and Black Sea regions. The primary goals of the U.S. rotational force are to promote regional stability, build enduring partnerships with nations in the region, and help those nations build their military capabilities.

Black Sea Rotational Force is scheduled to officially begin May 17, and end in late July. During the rotation, U.S. troops will train with partner nations in peacekeeping operations at training facilities in Babadag, Romania and Novo Selo, Bulgaria, as well as conduct military-to-military familiarization events in nations throughout the region in specialties including nonlethal weapon use, military intelligence and noncommissioned officer development. Additionally, there are scheduled symposiums on subjects including civil affairs, logistics and amphibious operations.

More than 100 Marines and Sailors from across the United States and Marine Corps Forces Europe are formed in the Security Cooperation MAGTF while in the region. In a Marine Air Ground Task Force, command, logistics combat, air combat and ground combat elements are organized under a single commander for a specific purpose.

The Black Sea Rotational Force MAGTF as described by Marine Forces Europe is a tailorable and scalable force. The MAGTF will be focused on the performance of security cooperation and civil-military operations throughout the deployment.

“What we’re accomplishing here is 40 percent of Marine Forces Europe’s theater security cooperation requirements in a 3-month period,” said Lt. Col. Tom Gordon, battalion commander for 1st Tank Battalion and commander of the Black Sea Rotational Force Security Cooperation MAGTF.

The core of the rotational force comes from 1st Tank Bn., based out of Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif. 1st Tanks Marines and Sailors form the command and logistics combat elements of the Security Cooperation MAGTF, and provide a scout platoon as the ground combat element for training with partner nations. 1st Tank Bn. is slated to remain in the Black Sea region throughout the rotation.

The air combat element of the MAGTF will come from Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 452, a Marine reserve squadron stationed at Newburgh, N.Y. VMGR-452 and its compliment of two KC-130 aircraft are scheduled to arrive to the region in late May. The detachment will support the Black Sea training by transporting U.S. and partner-nation forces, and participating in bilateral training with Romanian special forces.

Additional support for the Security Cooperation MAGTF comes from Marine Corps Forces Reserve’s 4th Civil Affairs Group. Civil affairs Marines will work with partner-nation forces to conduct community improvement projects and training in the region.

“The people of Romania have been very excited about our arrival,” said Staff Sgt. Aaron Weiss, the operations chief for the civil affairs Marines, and a native of Marietta, Ga. “We’re looking at having Marines from around the entire unit going out and interacting with the community.”

For the deployed Marines, learning about Romania’s unique culture and language are on the agenda.

“Everything is just a little different,” said Cpl. Devin Bullard, a tube-launched, optically-tracked, wirelessly guided missile, or TOW, gunner with 1st Tank Bn.’s scout platoon. “The cars, the road signs and the architecture – it’s all really interesting.”

But regardless of the language or location, the Marines said they are ready to do what they came here for, train in tandem with partner-nation forces.

“I’m looking forward to see what we have to offer each other and learning together,” added Bullard.

Gordon said Black Sea Rotational Force is crucial to maintaining valuable relationships between the U.S. and partner nations in the Black Sea, Balkan and Caucasus regions.

“We’re engaging with 13 nations, of which 12 have fought by our side, contributing to Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom,” said Gordon, a native of Boston. “Romania is fighting in Afghanistan now, shoring up our flank in Zabul province.”

Gordon explained the partnership between the U.S., Romania and other nations in the region will help ensure success of the Black Sea Rotational Force.

“It’s an engagement, that’s grown into a partnership, that we want to develop into a friendship,” said Gordon. “MARFOREUR hopes to build upon our success for the future.”

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