MIKHAIL KOGALNICEANU, Romania - A senior member of the House Armed Forces Committee visited MK Air Base to see the recent growth at the strategic transit hub July 1.
U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., had previously been to the forward operating site six years ago for a visit, but both the mission and the United States military presence has changed since then.
"In 2008, I came here when MK was stood up as a joint base - owned by the Romanians but with our military here," Sanchez said, who also serves on the Homeland Security Committee and is the ranking member of the Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee. "So six years later, I'm back to see what we have done with this base and the purpose of this base - the transiting into Afghanistan in particular and to see what we might use it for in the future."
MK Air Base, under the 21st Theater Sustainment Command, began taking up the largest deployment and redeployment transportation in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and several security missions throughout the European and African continents.
"It has changed quite a bit," she said. "When I came here before, there were three buildings that were modular and that was about it with a little airstrip. Now it has a full mess hall for example."
Servicemember transportation has picked up at the Romanian base as the United States' agreement with the Kyrgyz government to operate the transit center at Manas expires in July 2014 and will not be renewed. To facilitate a larger mission, the 21st TSC in January built a transportation terminal, additional housing and facilities like a post exchange to help accommodate the influx of new passengers.
"Since February, we've had almost 450 flights and almost 2,000 tons of baggage that has been moved - and we are now closing in on about 70,000 personnel that have transited through MK," said Lt. Col. John Motszko, Sustainment Task Force 16 commander at the air base.
The Congresswoman followed up her operations tour with lunch with about two dozen servicemembers at the base dining facility, before finishing the tour with a stop at an airfield to see the C-17 fleet used for deployments and redeployments.
Sanchez said she "loved" being able to visit the base near the Black Sea, especially the 15 Californian servicemembers she met over lunch.
"I just want to thank everybody on behalf of the American people for their service to our country, because what you do really makes a big difference to our country," she said.