News: Tennessee National Guard units arrive this week to train with Romanian Soldiers
MIHAIL KOGALNICEANU, ROMANIA — About 350 Tennessee National Guard Soldiers from units across the state arrived Aug. 4 and Aug. 5 to train with Romanian and Bulgarian land forces in the 2009 rotation of the U.S.-Romanian and U.S.-Bulgarian combined military exercise that will be held this summer and fall in those two countries.
An opening ceremony was held Aug. 6 at Mihail Kogaliceanu Airfield, Romania, and another is scheduled for Aug. 7 in Sliven, Bulgaria as the kick-off event of this year's training rotation.
Tennessee units participating in Romania include the 176th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion headquartered out of Johnson City, Tenn. and the 1st Battalion, 181st Field Artillery Regiment headquartered out of Chattanooga, Tenn.
"It is important for our Soldiers to have a chance to interact with our allies and become familiar with the way they train and conduct business," said Maj. Alfred Fleming, executive officer of the 176th CSSB. "I think it is also important that our soldiers experience the culture of our NATO partners, so that when we find ourselves together in a theater of operations, we have some familiarity."
The intent of Joint Task Force - East is to build interoperability and develop relationships with other militaries in theater security cooperation, said JTF-East commander Col. Gary Russ. Over 3,800 Romanian, Bulgarian, U.S. troops, and civilians will be supporting and participating in this year's rotation.
"Out Soldiers are here to learn the basic skills of warrior tasks, take support elements and teach them soldier skills and to have cultural interaction with the Romanians," said Command Sgt. Maj. Dale E. Shoop of the 176th CSSB.
Tennessee National Guardsmen and Romanian and Bulgarian Soldiers will be training side-by-side on a variety of Army Warrior Tasks and small unit infantry tactics.
Aside from training, JTF-East Soldiers will have opportunities to interact outside of work. Events such as sports events, language classes and Morale and Welfare Recreation trips outside of the training area are available for all Soldiers to encourage cultural and social interaction.
For most National Guardsmen, this training exercise is vastly different from their regular two weeks of annual training.
"I've never been out of America before, or to any other country," said Pvt. 1st Class Virgil Belew, Heavy Construction Mechanic for the 771st Maintenance Company out of Centerville, Tenn. "This is my first time flying over the ocean, or even to see the ocean. I'm looking forward to experiencing the culture here (and) getting to know the people."
In addition to the Tennessee National Guard, the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment out of Vilseck, Germany will be training in Romania and Bulgaria as part of JTF-East until October 2009.