Military

AF members build friendships, bridges in Romania

Released: April 9, 2003

 

By 1st Lt. Chris Watt

458th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs

 

Constanta, Romania (USAFENS) - They've been waiting for Americans to arrive for nearly 60 years. When World War II ended, many Romanians thought the Americans would next liberate their country from the Soviets' communist rule. But it would be another five decades of world-changing history, and a war in the Middle East, before the American military would land in Constanta, Romania; a welcome and long-awaited guest of the Romanian people.

 

U.S. Air Force and Army troops arrived at Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base, Romania, in March and are the first American military members to officially set up camp in the former Eastern Block country, with the exception of a few military exercises on the shores of the Black Sea.

 

The air base, often called MK, is normally used as a civilian and military international airfield. But with civilian service discontinued, the Americans and Romanians are now working together to create and maintain an air bridge to get supplies and people from the European Command area of responsibility to the U.S. Central Command AOR. 

 

In full view of aging MiG 29 and MiG 21 fighter aircraft, airmen have unloaded and loaded more than 2 billion pounds of cargo from ship, train, truck and the many C-130, C-141, C-17 and C-5 cargo aircraft that land and launch here every day. Additionally, deployed members of the 48th Fighter Wing, Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, have already installed miles of cable and fiber optics around the base.

 

While air bridges and bases don't often get built overnight, the members of the 458th Air Expeditionary Group have come pretty close.

 

"Within less than 30 hours of our arrival here, we were able to provide 2,700 customers with basic communication," said Maj. Tony Thomas, 458th Expeditionary Communications Squadron commander, who is deployed here from RAF Lakenheath.

 

Civil engineers and communications specialists have worked with more than 120 Romanian workers hired from the local area to dig ditches, lay communication cables, build cement pads, rewire and wire buildings and rebuild roads.

 

More than $5 million has been spent so far improving the base, and supporting the troops stationed here, as well as those passing through using the air bridge.

 

In fact, according to Thomas, the Romanians and Americans have worked together to lay 16 miles of communications cables to support 800 network accounts, 195 computers, 120 landline telephones and almost 100 land mobile radios. Additionally, 350 mobile phones have been purchased to support base operations.

-- USAFENS --



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