By Pfc. Jerry Wilson and Sgt. Aimee MillhamJuly 10, 2008
MIHAIL KOGALNICEANU AIRFIELD, Romania (Army News Service, Jul. 10, 2008) -- A June 30 ceremony marked the official beginning of Joint Task Force-East's second annual rotation.
Building on last year's training, this rotation will offer Soldiers an opportunity to train in a joint and combined environment.
"Let us strive to build on the success of the previous events and forge a path forward that enhances a future cooperation and security between our great countries," said Lt. Col. Michael Borg, commander of Task Force Vampire, the name of the American contingent training here.
JTF-East's main mission is to have U.S. rotational units train with and build enhanced relationships with Romanian and Bulgarian units. There are about 900 U.S. service members and civilian personnel at the base in Romania.
Besides improving combat skills, the training also allows countries that fight together in Iraq and Afghanistan to train together, officials said.
"The military area we fight in is so small and the probability to meet again in a real combat situation is very high," said Lt. Col. Florin Stan, 21st Mountain Battalion commander.
The training will also test command and control capabilities for future brigade-sized deployment.
Equipping and supplying the exercises happening at Mihail Kogalniceanu Airfield is no small task. It takes a great deal of equipment, personnel and supplies to keep a training rotation like Joint Task Force-East operating at peak efficiency.
At MK Airfield, it is the job of one nine-person team to ensure this equipment gets here safe and on time.
"We keep track of everything that is supposed to come in here," said 1st Lt. Richard Rogers, the JTF-E Movement Control Team officer in charge. "Whether it comes by highway, rail, and air or occasionally by sea, we make sure it properly clears host nation customs and is properly delivered."
Rogers and his team of Soldiers and civilians from the 39th Transportation Company in Kaiserslautern, Germany, track each vehicle and each piece of equipment from its point of origin to its final destination.
The majority of equipment used for training during JTF-E came to Romania by railroad. The rail shipment process begins with each unit providing a list of all equipment it needs, including exact weights and dimensions for each vehicle or box, said Ariff Paris, a traffic management officer from the 39th.
Paris emphasized the need for the exact weight and dimensions because it is from this information he and his crew will "create" the train.
"That means that we know which vehicle goes where on the rail cars," Paris said.
Paris and his team also take into consideration factors such as the size of tunnels in each country the train travels through in order to avoid oversized loads.
In addition to making sure all equipment arrives at its appointed destination, the MCT is in charge of making sure everything is returned to its point of origin at the completion of the exercises.
The importance of JTF-E guided training at MK Airbase does not go unnoticed by local, national or international leaders. On July 2, nearly 30 diplomatic, military and political leaders from several countries got a glimpse of Joint Task Force - East during a "Distinguished Visitors Day" tour here.
The tour is the second of its kind at JTF-E, and one of the day's highest-ranking U.S. visitors noted the operation's improvements.
"I was truly impressed then, but I am much more impressed now when I consider how far Romania and the U.S. have come in just one year," said Nicholas Taubman, U.S. ambassador to Romania.
The tour included a visit to Task Force Vampire's battalion military decision-making process center, a demonstration of the JTF-E Humvee Egress Assistance Trainer, and photo display briefings on the medical, naval and military intelligence functions here.
There was also a chance for the visitors to mingle with Soldiers over lunch.
"I was happy to see an interest from so many high-ranking people in what we do here," said Sgt. Amy Latour, Headquarters and Headquarters Company JTF-E supply sergeant.
The day's events ended in a press conference and remarks by Taubman and Romanian Secretary of State Georgeta Ionescu.
Ionescu said the presence of American Soldiers here is greatly beneficial to the Romanian community and global security.
"The decision to make Romanian military facilities available to the U.S. Army contributes to the strengthening of national security and the strategic profile of Romania as an active NATO ally and a firm Euro-Atlantic partner in the fight against terrorism," said the state secretary.