Joint Task Force – East (JTF-East)
Eastern European Task Force (EETAF)
After 2009, responsibility for strengthening partnerships between the US and Eastern European allies transferred from US Army Europe to US Marine Corps Forces Europe. Joint Task Force - East (JTF-East) was subsequently inactivated and Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force - Black Sea Rotational Force was activated to take its place.
Joint Task Force – East (JTF-East) was a US European Command (EUCOM) initiative executed by US Army Europe (USAREUR). JTF-East was designed to strengthen relationships between the United States and its Eastern European allies. This program was an innovative element of the Theater Security Cooperation program that focused on enhancing partner capacity and fostering regional cooperation. JTF-East provided the US and its partners in Romania and Bulgaria with training facilities and a periodic integrated combined staff that stood up to facilitate combined training. In addition to Joint Task Force – East's small, permanent headquarters, consisting of approximately 100 personnel, JTF-East was supported by US Army brigade-sized rotational elements (designated during their deployment as Task Force - East or TF-E) and US Air Force Weapons Training Deployments.
The US military forces were involved in challenging, expeditionary training experiences with the Romanian armed forces and humanitarian projects. JTF-East provided an excellent opportunity to increase interoperability between US and Romanian forces, built and sustained multinational partnerships, and prepared for future coalition operations. Exercises run by JTF-East honed US and host nation-invited NATO partner nations' ability to deploy forces and operate in austere conditions away from home stations. It enabled training participants to learn from each other and improve their capabilities. Operations in Romania and Bulgaria also provided the US and its partners the opportunity to engage in and demonstrate the continuance of peaceful and friendly international relations through combined training using host nation installations to support and facilitate rotational training activities.
The facilities used by JTF-East included the Romanian Air Force’s Mihail Kogalniceanu Airfield located in the city of the same name and the Romanian Land Forces Babadag Training Area located approximately 70 kilometers to the north. In Bulgaria, the primary facility was located in the Novo Selo Training Area located near Mokren, Bulgaria. These were sovereign host nation bases with co-located US funded constructed facilities that the US military used on a consignment basis as stipulated in the Defense Cooperation Agreement signed by the governments involved. The US military units training at the facilities were guests and remained under a clear US chain of command.
In September 2004, General B.B. Bell, then commander of USAREUR, made an opening statement at the Land Combat Expo that among a number of transformation initiatives for US forces in Europe was the proposal to establish a task force similar to the US Army's Southern European Task Force (SETAF) for Eastern Europe. The use of SETAF as a building block was emphasized in the the proposed force initially being referred to as the Eastern European Task Force (EETAF) as the concept became more developed by 2005. At that time EETAF was described as being different from SETAF in that it would rely on rotating brigade-sized elements, which would remain in the region for 6 months at a time. SETAF, on the other hand, at the time had a permenantly assigned brigade maneuver element in the form of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. EETAF's primary mission would be to train and exercise with new NATO partners in the Caucasus and Caspian Sea region. EETAF would also have a capability to respond to small-scale contingencies similar to SETAF.
In the summer of 2008, about 900 US Soldiers trained with Romanian troops at ranges in the eastern half of the country. The month-long training at MK Air Base, under the direction of JTF-East, included an airborne operation, live-fire exercises at squad level, military operations in urban terrain, joint patrolling, situational training exercises, and medical training. This rotation was the second facilitated by JTF-E following the the first rotation, a "proof of principle" demonstration, in 2007.
The training in Romania was actually the first part of this year's JTF-E rotation. Beginning in August 2007, JTF-E facilitated multi-national training for additional US Soldiers in Bulgaria. Training there lasted until November 2007. The training in Romania involved soldiers from US installations in Germany, along with members of the New Mexico National Guard and the Utah National Guard. Further emphaisizing the importance of the SETAF model in the formation of the JTF-East, SETAF soldiers deployed to Romania and Bulgaria in 2007 to assist with the proof of principle demonstration. Also included were 280 soldiers from the Romanian Army's 21st Mountain Battalion and 200 soldiers from the Bulgarian Army's 10th Company, 5th Infantry Battalion.
During the training, units entered an area held by an opposing force, played by Romanian soldiers, and attempted to secure the area and capture a high-value target. To accomplish their mission, the soldiers used weapons similar to what they might use in Iraq, but were instead loaded with "simmunitions," non-lethal projectiles with a paintball-type marker.
2009 marked the third rotation of JTF-East and it continued to play a key role in EUCOM's desire to build partnerships and enhance security and regional stability. Training together honed and developed techniques, tactics, and procedures that would assist tactical units in working together in combat. Building interoperability and continuing professional and personal relationships were essential attributes for successful coalitions.
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