CAMP MIHAIL KOGALNICEANU, ROMANIA -- U.S. service members here started their July 4 morning in ordinary fashion: early-morning resistance training at the 24/7 gym, followed by breakfast and a few cups of coffee at the dining facility.

Many reported to work; multinational forces either deployed to or stationed near the base and other locations across the Black Sea region -- including Novo Selo Training Area, Bulgaria -- are preparing to test their readiness during U.S. Army Europe's upcoming regional exercise Saber Guardian 17.

Following a rainy morning that cleared by early afternoon, the dining facility team served a special meal fit for an all-American cookout.

By the late afternoon, crowds of Soldiers began gathering around Camp Mihail Kogalniceanu's Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation area. Groups sprawled on the grass lawn, others started ping-pong battles and tug-of-war games with garrison division leads and members of their units. The air smelled of handmade pizza, grilled hot dogs and the outdoors -- the perfect ingredients for an Americana festival.

Danika Portz, a folk and rock musician based in Nashville, Tennessee, kicked off the first stop on her European tour with a concert inside the Romanian camp's deployment-style theater around 8 p.m. She played radio hits, patriotic tunes and some singles from her newest and soon-to-be-released albums. Soldiers cheered and sang along while celebrating our Independence Day from one end of the base to the other.

Planning for Camp Mihail Kogalniceanu's 4th of July celebration was largely handled by Daile Hall, the base's long-time MWR director and program operator, said Steven Povilaitis, Camp Mihail Kogalniceanu's deputy to the garrison commander.

Hall, who led the development of the base's now robust MWR program, invited Armed Forces Entertainment last year for a tour of Camp Mihail Kogalniceanu and NSTA, the Army's two logistical hubs in the Black Sea region. Since then, both bases have hosted several events sponsored by Armed Forces Entertainment, including a visit from the Miami Dolphins cheerleading squad, comedy shows and live music concerts.

Hall arrived at Camp Mihail Kogalniceanu about 10 years ago when the base primarily served as a passenger transit center for troops and cargo traveling to and from contingency operations in the Middle East.

Despite constant challenges, such as a tightened budget and ever-evolving mission, Hall and his small and dedicated staff transformed fields into a fully functioning fitness center, along with an MWR facility with free internet. It is a level of services that Installation Management Command calls "Spartan+Wi-Fi."

"I like to start it up and get it going," Hall said. "When we got here, none of these buildings were on this base. It was just an open field. We were looking at cows on the pasture."

Hall retired after 20 years of Army service in the emergency medical field, deciding to center his civilian career on improving the quality of life and overall welfare of service members stationed in deployment-like locations. Before accepting the position in Romania and Bulgaria, Hall also expanded the MWR programs at other austere military environments in Kosovo and Bosnia.

MWR is one of the first places Soldiers go when they get off the bus, Hall said. "They get here and find a place with free internet, watch a movie, go to a nice gym, just hang out."