CINCU, Romania -- "Everyone here who's played football, you know what's going on. Go ahead and take a knee." Command Sgt. Maj. Russell A. Vickery, state sergeant major of the South Carolina National Guard, looked around at the men and women wearing camouflage uniforms and palmetto patches. "We're very proud of you and the work you guys have been doing." Maj. Gen. Robert E. Livingston, the adjutant general of the South Carolina National Guard, and Vickery were visiting South Carolina Army National Guard Soldiers currently working at Joint National Training Center in Cincu, Romania.

Since April, Engineers from the 59th Troop Command have been working at Cincu in 3-week rotations as part of Resolute Castle 17. Soldiers in the National Guard are required to train for 2-3 weeks annually, and this overseas training gives them experience working in different environments and with soldiers of different Allied nations.

Livingston and Vickery met with Brig. Gen. Gheorghita Vlad, base commander of JNTC, to discuss the projects. Resolute Castle is a NATO exercise, now in its third year, focused on building training infrastructure in Eastern European NATO countries, including Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Poland. This year's projects include a light demolition range, buildings for a sniper range, and a tank live-fire range. Vlad has described the live-fire range as the "masterpiece of the master-plan"-10 kilometers of tank trails, firing points and berms for targetry, a loading dock for ammunition and multiple other buildings to support the personnel and equipment involved.

The cooperation between the Romanian Army and U.S. Army has been close for this exercise, and Gen. Vlad said, "It has been a pleasure working with the Soldiers of the South Carolina National Guard as a part of Resolute Castle."

Building berms and roads is only part of the story. The South Carolina Soldiers are also building friendships and greater professional understanding with their partners in other branches of the U.S. and other NATO militaries.

For Resolute Castle 17, they are working side-by-side with the Reserve's 926th Engineer Brigade and the Romanian 10th Engineer Brigade; previous rotations included Seabees from the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 1 and sappers from the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers (Militia).

"The Soldiers have learned a lot from working in a different country with our partners from different services, and we've made some landmark achievements" said Maj. Jay Sirmon, executive officer of 122nd Engineer Battalion.

Together, these units have worked together to overcome the challenges of joint operations, logistics across two continents, and the weather. Early rotations worked through the last snowstorms of the harsh Transylvanian winter. Every rotation has worked late into the night and battled the effects of rain. Even a quarter of an inch quickly turned roads and worksites into a deep muck, making construction and movement nearly impossible. Leadership has also had to schedule around other exercises in the training area, making sure that Soldiers were not on construction sites when tanks and helicopters were maneuvering and firing in the same area.

National Guard Soldiers face the unique challenge of balancing their civilian jobs with their military career, and they were appreciative of their leadership coming to visit them during their three weeks away from home.

"They seemed really interested in the work we were doing at the troop medical clinic," said Spc. Maisie Cadwell, a medic for 1223rd Engineer Company. "I got to shake both of their hands." Livingston and Vickery also shared a number of other training opportunities the South Carolina Guard is pursuing.

1st Sgt. Caldwell Guinyard of Forward Support Company, 122nd Engineering Battalion, said, "It was an honor that they took the time to speak with the Soldiers about all the positive things that the Guard is doing."

With some reporting by Sgt. NaSwana Moon, HHC, 122nd Engineer Battalion, South Carolina Army National Guard.