CONSTANTA, Romania – A month-long process came to a close here on Nov. 23 when more than 80 Soldiers, along with Romanian workers and crewmen from a civilian freighter from Delaware, worked to load 260 vehicles in a 12-hour period.Port operations were a culmination of planning and execution from multiple parties, and also meant that Soldiers from 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment were one step closer to going home.Moving that many vehicles—with that many Soldiers in such a short period of time—would always present challenges and safety concerns. However, in the midst of a global pandemic, the already daunting task became even more complex.“Operating in a COVID environment, we have to make sure that everyone is observing safety precautions at all times," said Sgt. 1st Class Timothy J. Nemes, 839th Transportation Battalion, who served as the safety officer for this mission. This means hand washing, avoiding touching your face, wearing a mask, and practicing social distancing. “Dealing with the Soldiers and the crew from the vessel, if one person goes down, it could be a chain reaction. It could mean mission failure,” he said.While the challenges were numerous, Nemes noted the importance of top-notch workers, both civilian and military, getting the job done.“Working with the Romanians is absolutely phenomenal, and I could not ask for a better crew,” said Nemes. “This is a huge reward. When we can deal with a pandemic, while deploying and redeploying a unit, it shows we are fit for the fight at all times.”The process started nearly a month ago with an agriculture and biological wash at Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base. The purpose of the washes were to insure no foreign species of plants or animals made their way back to North America. Then, the vehicles were either hauled on trucks or maneuvered via convoy to the port in Constanta, where a second agriculture wash and customs inspection occurred, before being loaded aboard the vessel.“At each step [in the process], we have had a lot of help coordinating,” said 1st Lt. Joshua Martindale, Charlie Co., 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment. “We have had the chance to work with a lot of other units in addition to working with our Romanian allies. Whether it was with the biological wash, agricultural wash, or line-haul operations, we have had the chance to demonstrate a lot of interoperability to get our stuff to the port.”Originally, these Soldiers were only supposed to be in Europe for a few months starting in late Winter and early Spring 2020. With the outbreak of COVID-19, the mission changed, and their time here was extended.“This was a change of mission that they adapted really well to. This speaks to the individual Soldier, and it speaks to their families. It also speaks well about the organization,” said Capt. Blake D. Bucknam, Company Commander, Alpha Company, 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, was the officer-in-charge for this mission. “There is a lot of planning that goes into the original mission. For the unit to adapt to that says a lot about us. We moved out all over Europe and maintained a ready posture.”Bucknam was quick to note that it wasn't just the troops themselves who deserve credit for their ability to adapt and overcome. According to him, the support the families provided back home played a pivotal role in allowing the Soldiers to accomplish the mission. He was excited for his entire team to get back home.“It's a good feeling. It really is the last step to our mission here. What we have shown as an organization, as a battalion, as a brigade, we can be anywhere in the world and ready to fight,” said Bucknam.The port operations here represented the end of months of hard work. Not only did Soldiers demonstrate the ability to adjust to whatever might come their way, they showed the entire world just how ready of a fighting force they serve.“The greatest power we have as an Army is our ability to project combat power,” said Martindale. “Whether we're loading from Fort Stewart to come to Poland or loading from Romania to go back to Georgia, it shows the ability that our Soldiers have to adapt to whatever the situation might be, and execute violently.”-END-