News: Marines train for historic return to Black Sea region
By Cpl. Tatum Vayavananda
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – More than 100 Marines and sailors from reserve units throughout the nation began training for their scheduled deployment to the Black Sea region in support of Black Sea Rotational Force 11, Feb. 1.
This is the second time in history that a Special-Purpose, Marine Air-Ground Task Force will deploy to this region of the world.
“It’s a unique mission because, except for last year, there hasn’t really been a SPMAGTF in history,” said Lt. Col. Nelson S. Cardella, the commanding officer of BSRF-11. “The Marines will be working to build relationships, promote regional stability and enhance the military capacity of foreign armed services with over twelve Eastern European nations.”
The rotation will also advise foreign militaries in warfighting tactics, with emphasis on counterinsurgency and peacekeeping operations.
Most of the nations in the region deploy troops to Afghanistan to stand alongside NATO and American military forces.
“We’re not engaging as a combat unit, but we are definitely training the people who are going to do the fighting,” Cardella said.
“It’s an amazing opportunity to be able to go and train other people,” said Lance Cpl. Stephen A. Hart, a rifleman with BSRF-11.
“I think it’s a huge thing for us to have allies,” said Hart, from Lubbock, Texas. “It’s a huge part that we, not just as a military, but as a country, work with other nations’ units and work effectively.”
This year’s rotation has doubled from BSRF-10’s three-month deployment last spring, said Cardella.
“This time we’re doing twice as much, so we’re growing; we’ve probably grown two-fold, maybe three-fold from the last deployment,” said Cardella, from Waxhaw, N.C.
Along with the military-to-military engagements, the unit’s activities will extend to community relations and humanitarian assistance projects.
With the diverse regions and cultures that BSRF-11 will encounter, the Marines have to remain versatile as a SPMAGTF.
“Every time we go somewhere and do military-to-military engagements and train with a specific nation, we have to adapt to their way of thinking, their environment and where they are coming from,” Cardella said.
BSRF-11 is comprised of reserve Marines from throughout the nation, including California, Chicago, Texas, Alabama and the District of Columbia.
“I think it’s great because it allows reservists to go out there and showcase their skills,” said Capt. Charles A. Nassar, the engineering officer with the logistics support element, BSRF-11. “Reservists can draw from a wealth of skills from careers, higher education and experience, to supplement the mission.”
“A unique part about reservists is their civilian side,” said Hart. “We not only bring the Marine-combat effectiveness but we also bring civilian life skills. We have grunts that are also police officers, firefighters, paramedics and plumbers. Everyone basically has two specialties.”
The Marines will receive training to include combat marksmanship, cultural awareness, military advising, urban warfare and convoy operations here while they prepare for their slated deployment to Romania for the spring.
“Romania gives us a lot of support and the U.S. Army has built a very nice facility in Constanza, where we will be working from,” said Cardella. “The people are very friendly with Roman, Italian and Slavic influences, so it’s a very rich culture and very beautiful place.”
The SPMAGTF is diligently preparing for their deployment with great enthusiasm and focus.
“I’m very impressed with the personnel we got with their motivation, seriousness and dedication. Everyone wants to do a good job on the mission and I’m very happy and proud of that,” said Cardella.
“I’m looking forward to it. I’m excited. I think it’s an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and it will be fun,” said Hart. “ I can’t wait to see what other training they have in store for us.”
“I’m look forward to what I call ‘legacy projects’ that will withstand the test of time and multiple rotations,” said Nassar, from Sterling Heights, Mich. “It will be an opportunity for the local people to look on them five or 10 years from now and make them say, ‘I remember I was in fifth grade and I remember Marines came to my school to do that, and I can see it’s still here now and it’s helping other kids.”