21st Theater Sustainment Command providing key personnel support at transit center in Romania
March 19, 2014
MIHAIL KOGALNICEANU AIR BASE, Romania - U.S. Army Europe's 21st Theater Sustainment Command has taken the reins of the transit center mission here, leading a multinational, multiservice effort to operate the base as a key personnel and cargo transportation portal for U.S. troops moving to and from Afghanistan as the mission there draws down.
The MK Air Base Passenger Transit Center, which officially began running at full capacity March 1, is designed to move U.S. service members into and out of the Operation Enduring Freedom theater. The center is replacing the U.S. transit facility at Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan as the contract between the U.S. and Kyrgyzstan ends this summer. The Romanian air base has been operational, and the 21st has engaged in multi-modal transportation support there, for many years. But it was not configured to support the new transit center mission, which requires moving the thousands of troops and thousands of tons of cargo and supplies that accompanies the drawdown in Afghanistan.
During the opening ceremony Maj. Gen. John O'Connor, the commander of the 21st TSC, praised the ongoing partnership between the U.S. and Romania, and expressed his optimism about further strengthening ties through the MK mission.
"The establishment of the transit at MK strengthens an effective network of capabilities protecting the interest of the U.S. and our allies," said O'Connor. "Our partnership helps to shape the region, build trust and provide critical capabilities to our combat commanders as the mission in Afghanistan winds down."
Earlier this year 21st TSC engineers from the 902nd Engineer Company and their Romanian counterparts went into high gear, working together to build the base to full operating standards in approximately a month.
"Full operating capacity means that we can process the maximum planning capacity of 2,000 (transiting personnel per day), in terms not only of airfield capability and personnel processing, which includes customs, security and a variety of considerations beyond the flights themselves, but also life support facilities," said Col. Michael Snyder, the deputy commanding officer of the 21st TSC and officer-in-charge of the Regional Support Element here. The RSE's mission is to provide command and control and transit operations for personnel flowing to and from Afghanistan.
Sgt. Maj. Robert Hickson, the RSE's senior enlisted Soldier, credited the center's successful startup and continuing daily operation to the efforts of the Soldiers and members of the U.S. Air Force's 780th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron. The 780th had been inactivated in 1958, but was reactivated in 2013 to support the transit center mission.
"What made this so successful is the joint collaborative effort with the Air Force and the Army to get this place up and fully operational by March 1," said Hickson. "Without all of us working together it could not have happened. Everyone has pulled their own weight and working together has made a big impact on being successful here at MK."
The Airmen of the 780th support flights in and out of Afghanistan and provide maintenance, aerial port operations, air command and control, airfield security and airfield crash fire rescue personnel.
Hickson said the strong partnerships the American forces here have built with their Romanian NATO allies and local contractors have resulted in successful working relationships that have boosted the center's success factor. He said the Romanians have been supportive, proactive and responsive.
The Romanian Air Force host the American forces here, while civilian employees provide direct support that includes bus transport for each flight, facility security and border and customs processing assistance.
Working together with these partner service and partner nation groups, 21st Soldiers oversee all personnel support for Soldiers in transit either home or into Afghanistan. This includes controlling passenger flow in and out of the center and providing passengers with temporary lodging and the support and information they need to use base resources such as the dining facility, post exchange and Morale, Welfare and Recreation services.
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