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Black Sea Marines, U.S. Air Force Bring "Thunder Over the Black Sea"

US Marine Corps News

By Cpl. Tatum Vayavananda, Black Sea Rotational Force

MIHAIL KOGALNICEANU AIRFIELD, Romania -- Crowds of Romanian locals, tourists and groups of U.S. military personnel gathered here on June 8 to watch the “Thunder Over the Black Sea” air show that was put on by the Romanian Ministry of Tourism.

Marines from Black Sea Rotational Force 11, who participated with a planned demonstration of Romanian Special Forces paratroopers jumping from KC-130T Hercules aircrafts and a static display of pull-up bars, extended-boom forklift, and a humvee with a mounted 50-caliber machine gun, were joined by Soviet-era MiG jets and Romanian flight demonstration performances which were headlined by the U.S. Air Force Aerial Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds.

“It shows the military in action; what we do and the capabilities we and the Romanians have,” said Lt. Col. William J. Vanzanten, executive officer, BSRF-11, “and the public needs to see that so they can [keep] supporting their military.”

Since April, the Marines of BSRF have been working with Romanian and other Eastern European nations in the Black Sea region. They have trained with the Romanian paratroopers, Land Forces and Marines in Babadag region, north of here. Locals and visitors of the air show got to see firsthand the Marine presence that was already apparent in the area as Marines convoyed back and forth between their towns and lived alongside their city.

“I have seen a lot of movies and I know their history and they have a good reputation with me,” said Constantin-Andrei Cazac, a Romanian visitor at the air show.

“I know that they are much respected in the world and it’s great that they are here for this because we are part of NATO,” he added.

The show consisted of trick parachutists, Romanian demonstration squadrons, a MiG fighter jet “fly-by,” a Marine KC-130T Hercules, flown by Air Combat Element of BSRF-11, and the Thunderbirds closing out the show.

“We are thrilled to be here in Romania,” said Air Force Maj. Kristen K. Haley, public affairs officer, USAF Demonstration Squadron.

The Thunderbirds, consisting of six F-16 fighter jets, will perform in Italy, Bulgaria, Finland, England, Denmark and Belgium for the remainder of this year’s European tour. The last time the Thunderbirds performed in Romania was in 2007.

“It’s a great privilege to get to go to Europe and represent the U.S. airmen,” said Haley, a native of Reston, Va.

The air show attracted a great crowd of visitors, local and national news outlets and featured many vendors from the area.

“It’s good, it opens relations up with everybody,” said VanZanten. “It’s good well working with [Romanians}; it’s like a hand-shake,” added the Denver, Colorado native.

“It’s a huge deal for a small town like Constanta to get us and the Thunderbirds to come here and show off our ‘air power,’ so to speak.”

Black Sea Rotational Force 11 is a rotational deployment of Marines to the Black Sea, Balkan and Caucasus regions to work with foreign nations and help build their military training capacity, promote stability throughout the region, and build enduring partnerships with 13 nations throughout Eastern Europe. They are slated to return to the United States, September 2011.

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