Making strong allies in a foreign nation

Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base, Romania - Nearly 40 years ago, murals depicting the glory of the Soviet military were freshly painted at the Novo Selo training area in Bulgaria.Today, nearly 20 years after the end of the Cold War they are flaking, subdued images of a bygone area. Now, artificial thunder echoes through the hills as a Bulgarian M1117 Guardian armored security vehicle runs the training course, mowing down targets with fire from its mounted heavy machine gun. The son of a Downey man is faced with these reminders of the Cold War and the difficulties of conducting U.S. Army business in a foreign nation, as a member of the Joint Task Force-East, a multinational task force designed to make stronger allies of Romania and Bulgaria. The operation hones the skills of soldiers from all three nations as well as helping the people living in some of the poorest areas of the two European countries. Army Pvt.2 Adam Carpio, son of Brian Skeen, of Downey, is an unmanned aerial vehicle operator with the 4th Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment in Vilseck, Germany, and is currently deployed to Romania to support the task force, based at Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base. "I'm responsible for providing aerial reconnaissance for the rest of the unit on the ground," said Carpio, a 2007 graduate of Calvary Chapel Christian Academy. Soldiers from all three countries trained together in individual and company-level movements as well as with armored vehicles, a variety of weapons and combat lifesaving skills. They also practiced the coordination needed to go into and clear a hostile urban area. In addition to the training, the soldiers took time to visit a number of local villages and allowed children to explore the vehicles they were using. "Training with the Romanians has been really valuable and fun too. I got the opportunity to fire a rocket propelled grenade," said Carpio. "At the same time we're teaching them the way the U.S. Army does things and about our equipment." Military training wasn't the only reason American service members were in Romania and Bulgaria. A group of doctors and nurses traveled to several villages around the training bases in both countries. The team worked with local health care workers and translators to provided screenings for optical and other general health concerns. There was also a team of Navy Seabees helping renovate and upgrade local schools and medical facilities. In spite of the language barrier and cultural differences, the American soldiers and their Bulgarian and Romanian counterparts were usually able to get their messages across. "Training with the Romanians is different," said Carpio, who has been in the Army for less than a year. "We're in a new training area we aren't used to, there's the language barrier to consider and a lot of other obstacles we have to think about. But it's still very worthwhile." Whether building new schools, bringing medical services to villages or practicing the art of war, Romanian, Bulgarian and American service members, like Carpio, are working to keep the positive relationships going long after everyone has gone home. The relationships built on this training ground will go a long way toward making sure the three nations can work together seamlessly.

********** Published: October 9, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 25