Members of the 528th Light Reconnaissance Battalion of the Romanian Land Force and the 1st Squadron, 131st Cavalry, Alabama Army National Guard, conduct a joint area reconnaissance mission during Exercise Red Dragon June 15, 2015, Babadag, Romania. Red Dragon is a training exercise conducted between the 131st Cavalry, Alabama Army National Guard and the 528th Light Reconnaissance Battalion, Romanian Land Force, in an effort to build stronger ties between American and Romanian forces.
by Staff Sgt. Christopher Davis, Staff Writer
Citizen-Soldiers from the Alabama National Guard have shared their knowledge and skills with Romania Defense Forces through joint-force exercises and missions over the last 22 years.
Alabama and Romania are part of the National Guard’s State Partnership Program (SPP) that was instituted in 1993 after the fall of the Soviet Union. Its ongoing mission is part of the Department of Defense and National Guard Bureau to support nations around the world with a one-on-one initiative.
"Each of the activities we performed together was an opportunity for both the Romanian and American Soldiers to develop new skills, learning from each other," said Lt. Gen. Nicolae-lonel Ciuca, Chief of General Staff of Romanian Armed Forces.
"Everyone knows that if one can teach something to someone else, one can do it better oneself," said Maj. Gen. Perry Smith, the Adjutant General of the Alabama National Guard. "We have mutually used this philosophy throughout our partnership relations with Romania."
The first joint-mission involving Alabama Guardsmen and Romanian Soldiers was a humanitarian effort at an orphanage in Constanta, Romania. The two groups repaired damaged buildings and sewer lines, improving the support base for the children.
Since this first effort in the mid-1990s, the Alabama-Romania partnership has encouraged other groups to provide help and support for the orphanages and the children they support.
"Working together gives them high satisfaction because these programs are an opportunity for the Romanian and American Soldiers who have not participated in missions in the operation theatres to work in an international environment where they need skills that cannot be developed while working with their own fellows," said Ciuca.
There has been more than 200 events, missions and exercises since the beginning of the SPP between Alabama and Romania. Events included state visits, training exercises and subject matter expert exchanges, where both militaries share ideas and concepts that amplify their capabilities for future combat operations.
"Starting this year, we conducted in Romania live exercises, for reconnaissance units, engineer troops and air forces in order to increase the interoperability of our troops," said Ciuca. "The SPP, a model of partnership itself, is coordinated and mentored by skillful leaders and applied by officers."
Alabama National Guard units traveled to Romania and conducted NATO training exercises recently as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve 2015 throughout Eastern Europe.
The Alabama National Guard is a crucial part of the DOD’s European Reassurance Initiative with American Soldiers working with their state partners as a sign of solidarity between American and European allies.
"The implementation of the US-European Reassurance Initiative (ERI) projects represents a high priority for the Romanian side, and we are extremely grateful to continue to support this process," said Ciuca. "The ERI inventory in Romania currently includes 93 dif ferent infrastructure projects listed in the Defense Cooperation Agreement."
Guardsmen from the 1-131st Cavalry participated with Romanian Soldiers from the 528th Reconnaissance Battalion in Operation Red Dragon last summer , a joint exercise testing combat readiness and interoperability between personnel from the Army, Navy and Air Force.
Romanian and Alabama Soldiers have started to expand the infrastructure to outlying bases in Romania to better facilitate training as a means to improve the Romanian Armed Forces overall capabilities in preparing troops for future deployments.
Engineers from various Romanian engineer units and the 877th Engineer Battalion improved range operations for the Cincu Training Center in Cincu, Romania, as part of Operation Resolute Castle.
"The Russian resur gence would be a lot more intimidat ing to Romania if the partnership with the Alabama National Guard had not been so strong," said Smith. "Romania stands defiantly and confidently against the Russian threat because of the rapport that has been established through our partnership."
There are multiple training and mission events scheduled for 2016 between Alabama and Romania. The 877th Engineer Battalion will return to Cincu Training Center to further the weapons ranges on the site. The 187th Fighter Wing has and will continue to provide advice in conducting opera tions as an F-16 fighter wing, as the Romanian Air Force will have their first F-16 fighter squadron by 2017.
"The State Partnership Pro gram is the most valuable and best foreign relations tool our nation has ever had as evidenced by the very successful partnership relationship between Romania and the Alabama National Guard," said Smith.