Combined Team Zabul celebrates Romanian National Day

116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team
Story by Sgt. Frank O'Brien

Date: 12.01.2011
Posted: 12.04.2011 06:18
News ID: 80882
Combined Team Zabul celebrates Romanian National Day

ZABUL PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. and Romanian troops, members of Combined Team Zabul, assembled in multiple ceremonies to celebrate Romanian National Day at Forward Operating Base Lagman, Zabul province, Afghanistan, Dec. 1.

The day led off with Romanian troops raising their flag at a ceremony attended by Soldiers of the Virginia Army National Guard 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team and the Alaska-based 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment.

Romanian National Day memorializes the unification of Transylvania, Wallachia, Moldavia, Bessarabia and Bukovina into what is now modern day Romania following the break-up of the Austo-Hungarian Empire after World War I.

After the raising of the flag, the mass formation of Romanian troops sang their national anthem, causing Col. Blake C. Ortner, CTZ and 116th commander to remark, “I got goosebumps when you sang your national anthem.”

Following two short speeches, over 40 NATO medals were presented to the Romanian troops by Ortner.

“I was a little apprehensive about leading NATO troops because I’ve never done it before,” said Ortner. “NATO is privileged to have Romanian troops in it. I couldn’t ask for a better group of soldiers and friends.”

There are currently more than 1,300 Romanian troops deployed in Zabul in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, mostly along Highway 1, the “ring road” that links major Afghan cities. Romanian troops are stationed on joint bases with U.S. and/or Afghan National Army troops, as well as small all-Romanian patrol bases. On FOB Lagman, Romanian and U.S. soldiers serve side-by-side, sharing missions, offices and base facilities.

Later that evening, Col. Marius Harabagiu, commander of the Romanian 1st Mechanized Brigade repeated the morning’s courtesy by presenting gifts to soldiers of the 116th “Stonewall Brigade.” The gifts included: certificates, coins, wall flags, plaques, military magazines, movies, shirts and hats.

“I don’t have enough words to express my gratitude for your service,” said Harabagiu, who recognized every section of the unit with personal comments tailored to each soldier.

U.S. and Romanian forces work side-by-side in Zabul province on the NATO-ISAF mission conducting counterinsurgency operations in the province. The Romanian units, such as the 1st Mechanized Brigade, which traces its history back to 100 B.C., have deployed previously in Angola, Albania, Kosovo and Iraq, and are also adept at joint operations. Their mission has been to provide enough security for a stable government to flourish. As a testament to the effectiveness of the Romanians, future plans include their taking on a greater leadership role in the coalition.

“It’s been a great experience,” said Ortner. “We’ve built a lot of lasting friendships, and on behalf of all the soldiers of the Stonewall Brigade, we really appreciate your service.”