News: BSRF-14 Marines, sailors fire away in paintball
Story by Lance Cpl. Krista James
MIHAIL KOGALNICEANU, Romania - Black Sea Rotational Force 14 is the first full-year rotation of U.S. forces in Mihail Kogalniceanu, Romania. While being the premiere crisis-contingency force in the Eastern European region, Marines and sailors also maintain and further strengthen a close and solid relationship with their partner nations. Conducting community engagement events helps build that partnership and foster positive, mutual involvement in the area.
Marines and sailors with BSRF-14, and children from the Ovidiu Placement Center in Ovidiu, Romania, got together for a friendly paintball competition at NRG Park in Constanta, Romania, Oct. 19, 2013.
Corporal Nicholas Zablonski, a team leader with BSRF-14, and Newport News, Va. native, and Lance Cpl. Henry Benitez, a Maintenance Management Officer with BSRF-14, and Houston native, both agreed that paintball with the children was a good experience.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Benitez. “I enjoyed myself and I think the kids had fun as well because they were smiling and laughing the whole time.”
The children also expressed gratitude to the Marines and sailors for the attention and time spent with them over the past few weeks. All of the children agreed that playing paintball with the BSRF-14 personnel was fun. Marines and sailors with BSRF-14 are not strangers to the children from the placement center. Their relationship began when BSRF-14 arrived to Mihail Kogalniceanu in early September and started spending time in the center. These engagements included painting and repairing the facility where the children reside.
Zablonski said that these community relation events ultimately have a positive effect on the children.
“If they see us [volunteering] as Marines, I think they will be more willing to participate in their military,” said Zablonski. “It’s like setting a standard, [and] setting an example for them.”
“It shows that we aren’t just here to train, but to interact with them as well,” said Benitez.
Marines and sailors enjoy volunteering their time with local placement centers and organizations. These community engagement events ultimately provide a way for Marines and sailors with BSRF-14 to build on the positive relationship they already have with the host-nation population.
Zablonski and Benitez agreed that playing paintball again with the children would be a great experience, and both gave more ideas for future events.
“Go-cart [racing] at the mall would be pretty fun, too,” said Benitez.
Whether it’s playing games, instructing, or repairing and painting, Marines and sailors from BSRF-14 are more than excited to spend time with the community.