Romanian colonel doubles as commander, country's top marketer
November 18, 2012
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- When Mircea Gologan retires from the military, it's easy to envision the colonel beginning his second career as a Romanian tourism official.
That's due to the fact that Gologan, 44, the highest ranking Romanian Soldier in Afghanistan, is passionate about informing his coalition partners about his country. He has developed a presentation on the southeast European country that has been seen by more than 200 coalition force leaders, including 3rd Infantry Division chief of staff Col. Leopoldo Quintas and more than 20 other division staff members on Nov. 14.
"We have been fighting alongside western troops for 11 years and we have a long history together, but rarely has there been time to relax and get to know each other better," Gologan said. "It's my goal to try and give insight about Romania to our coalition partners."
Romanian troops are highly visible in Regional Command-South, as the country currently ranks No. 2 in terms of troops stationed in region with about 1,600 Soldiers. In terms of International Security Assistance Force troop contributions throughout Afghanistan, Romania ranks No. 6. The majority of Romania's troops are infantrymen in Kandahar and Zabul provinces, but the country also has large contingents of special forces, intelligence and operations personnel spread throughout the country.
Gologan's 90-minute presentation on Romania rarely mentions the country's military; instead, he focuses on the country's demographics, culture, history, food, drink and, of course, Vlad the Impaler, who was likely one of the historical figures who influenced Bram Stoker's novel "Dracula."
"Most people associate three things with Romania: Nadia Comaneci, Nicolae Ceausescu and Dracula," Gologan said with a smile. "For sure, my aim is to broaden what people know about Romania as a nation and culture. My presentation is not official, it's personal. It's not about our armed forces."
(In case you didn't know, Nadia Comaneci won three gold medals in the 1976 Olympics and is married to Bart Conner; Nicolae Ceausescu was the Romanian dictator from 1965-1989; and Dracula, written in 1897, was one of the first horror novels ever written and loosely based on Transylvania-born prince Vlad III Dracula.)
Gologan, now on his fourth tour in Afghanistan, began compiling his presentation on a previous tour when he was stationed in Kabul. The Bucharest resident said the current 92-slide presentation is his improved version and includes his personal interests.
Quintas said he was impressed with Gologan's presentation and ready to take action.
"Now I have to take a vacation to Romania," Quintas said. "Romania has been a great coalition partner. It's important to learn more about our partner countries and we were glad to take up Colonel Gologan's offer to inform us about his country."
Gologan said all credentialed KAF residents can stop by the Romanian compound, located just west of Utah Road, at any time to experience two prominent examples of Romanian culture. People are welcome to tour the Romanian Orthodox Church or view KAF's miniature version of The Endless Column, a replica of the 98-foot sculpture by Constantin Brancusi that towers over Targu Jiu, Romania.
Gologan said he receives the reward for his hard work on the presentation when Romanian troops receive a warm welcome from their coalition partners for, well, just being themselves.
"It's nice when people smile at us just because we're Romanian," Gologan said. "The presentation has hopefully bettered our ties and strengthened our links with our coalition partners."