By Staff Sgt. Shawn Nickel, Air Forces Central Public Affairs / Published August 22, 2014
Oregon Army National Guard, 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team Soldiers from load onto a C-17 Globemaster III Aug. 13, 2013, bound for Afghanistan from Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base, Romania. The flight is one of more than 500, deploying and redeploying transportation missions, that the U.S. Army Europe's 21st Theater Sustainment Command and Air Force's 780th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron have supported since opening the transit hub in February 2014. (U.S. Army photo/Sgt. Brandon Hubbard)
MIHAIL KOGALNICEANU AIR BASE, Romania (AFNS) --
"It's so green here," is often the first words uttered from service members as they step off an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III after arriving from Afghanistan or other deployed locations.
Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base, Romania, located 25 miles northwest of the Black Sea city of Constanta, started operations in February 2014 and has already processed more than 85,000 troops.
"It's all about getting warfighters to the fight and getting them home when it’s all said and done," stated U.S. Army Col. Ronald D. Brown Jr., the 21st Sustainment Command assistant chief of staff. "We've handled up to 2,000 Soldiers a day. Having a great relationship with our host nation in conjunction with taking what we've done in previous operations has streamlined it into what we have here."
The ability to conduct operations at Kogalniceanu AB gives combatant commanders flexibility and responsiveness moving equipment, supplies and troops into and out of the U.S. European Command and U.S. Central Command areas of operations.
It takes an efficient team of almost 600 people, including approximately 140 Airmen, to sustain the operations, which has shipped more than 2,100 tons of baggage in addition to military equipment, served hundreds of thousands of meals and inspected almost 61,000 body armor plates.
"Without our people the mission doesn't get done," said Master Sgt. Laura Blea, the 780th Expeditionary Air Lift Squadron first sergeant. "We have a huge footprint here as Air Force personnel. We are the ones who fly the C-17s (and) with that comes maintainers, loadmasters, medics, security forces and other support personnel. Basically we have a ‘mini wing’ to support the mission. It's incredible to see the Airmen come together with all the other services and the Romanians for a common goal."
The base has quickly become a favored location for Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines, who have previously been to Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan, due to the lush atmosphere and convenient amenities provided by the moral, welfare and recreation programs.
"So far my experience with (Kogalniceanu AB) is a lot more positive than prior deployments when I transited through Manas," said Army Staff Sgt. Jennifer Brown, with North Carolina Army National Guard’s 211th Military Police Company. "The big difference is the landscape and the recreation opportunities."
Since only weeks after September 11, 2001, troops have passed to and from Afghanistan through Manas. Without a new lease in Kyrgyzstan, the U.S. was forced to find a new location to ferry troops. With an inter-service relationship and infrastructure already built in Romania, it quickly became the top choice for transit operations.
"The working relationship dynamic is absolutely amazing here; everybody works together very well," Blea said. "If one aspect fails, then we all fail because we are all working toward a common goal."
The new operation comes with several advantages. The annual operating cost is approximately $18 million, which is 77 percent less than Manas. The average time it takes to process personnel deploying into theater is 36 hours, which is 12 hours less; and 40 hours to redeploy to home stations, which is 32 hours less than Manas.
"Time on the ground between when a Soldier or Marine lands is significant to the overall picture," Brown said. "This operation is expeditionary in nature meaning we could collapse this operation if needed. Time and efficiency are saved based on how we conduct operations here. (Kogalniceanu AB) is the next evolution in how we conduct passenger transit."