Aug. 5, 2011

116th BCT troops meet with Romanian counterparts in Afghanistan

By Sgt. Francis J. O'Brien     
116th BCT Public Affairs

FORWARD OPERATING BASE LAGMAN, Afghanistan Soldiers of the Staunton-based Virginia Army National Guard 116th Brigade Combat Team met with their Romanian Army counterparts at Forward Operating Base Lagman in Zabul, Afghanistan July 29 to establish a working partnership in Combined Team Zabul.

 

Lt. Col. William P. Scott, 116th Brigade Combat Team operations officer, and Col. Marius Harabagiu, Deputy Commander 1st Mechanized Brigade, exchange information during a meeting at Forward Operating Base Lagman, Afghanistan. The 116th BCT and 1st Mechanized Brigade are deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. (Photo by Sgt. Francis J. O'Brien, 116th BCT Public Affairs)

The 116th BCT will serve as a headquarters element for CTZ, the multinational coalition force responsible for counterinsurgency and stability operations in Zabul Province. Zabul is one of the first Afghan provinces considered stable enough to begin the transition to governance independent of U.S. forces.

“It’s the first time we’ve worked with a NATO ally,” said Col. Blake C. Ortner, commander of the 116th BCT, to the assembled Romanian officers. “It will be an interesting and exciting adventure, and we’re looking forward to working with you.”

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.

“We’re used to partnering whenever we’re called out for a natural disaster or emergency,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas H. Yancey speaking about the unique strengths National Guard units bring to the mission. “We have to partner with other agencies and we’re used to it.”

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 missions in Zabul are COIN operations with their ANA counterparts, and providing enough security for a stable government to flourish. As a testament to the effectiveness of the Romanians, future plans include their taking a leadership role in the region.

“It’s critical to have the Romanians with us,” said Ortner. “We found out about this mission 60 days ago..We weren’t able to bring the units that would normally come and support us as a brigade-sized element. We had to pull 47% of our Soldiers from other units.”

The 116th is replacing an active duty unit - the Headquarters, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division. A transfer of authority ceremony between the 1-25th SBCT and 116th BCT is scheduled for August 7.

“We think differently than the active components you’ve dealt with in the past,” said Lt. Col. William P. Scott, when outlining the differences between National Guard and active duty units to a Romanian officer. “We bring a fresh perspective to the fight.”

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