News: Romanian’s commitment to US forces strengthened in southern Afghanistan
Story by Spc. Thomas Duval
FORWARD OPERATING BASE LAGMAN, Afghanistan – "Umār la umār!" is a Romanian phrase, which along with the Dari phrase, “Shona ba Shona,” both translate in English to “shoulder to shoulder” and for U.S. and Romanian soldiers in Afghanistan, it has evolved into more than just a phrase. Instead “shoulder to shoulder” is the way Romanian and U.S. forces operate daily since July 2003.
This unique partnership could not be more apparent than in southern Afghanistan along Highway 1, one of the most dangerous stretches of road in all of Afghanistan.
Here, the Arctic Wolves, soldiers from the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, work hand in hand with their Romanian counterparts from the 2nd Battalion “Cālugreni” and 26th Infantry Battalion “Red Scorpions,” both of the 1st Mechanized Brigade, to aggressively fight insurgents and help build the capacity of the Afghan government for the local populace.
“We have an extremely rare and strong bond with our Romanian brothers and sisters in arms – we have these two Romanian battalions and their command and control staff here and I am constantly amazed by how well they integrate themselves into our operations,” said Col. Todd R. Wood, commander of 1/25th SBCT. “I really want to be sure we get the word out to people on the home front … in Romania, but also in Alaska. I know the folks in Alaska would be intrigued by the way we come together in this challenging environment day after day up against the insurgents … it’s a lot like life in the Last Frontier…Alaska. It’s tough here, too … challenging and extreme.”
The U.S.-Romanian team, also known as Combined Team Zabul conducts daily combat operations together to include route clearance, patrols and more recently have began joint training for military working dog searches.
“We share the hardships, accomplishments, joys and sorrows,” Wood said.
Overall, the military partnership between the two nations is not new, but it is unknown to most Americans.
“We have been in Afghanistan with our U.S. partners since 2003 and we also stood with you in Iraq, as well as Kosovo. This is a long and fruitful partnership that we are very proud of,” said Col. Marius Harabagiu, Romanian brigade commander.
The history between the two countries stretches back to 1880 when U.S. and Romania first began diplomatic relations and strengthened after 9/11 when the U.S. lobbied for Romanian acceptance into NATO. It was those actions that have since developed the working relationship into a true “shoulder to shoulder” operational partnership.