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Laying the groundwork for the U.S. military’s expansion into Romania and Bulgaria, the multinational Task Force Deep Steel finished its first full cycle of training Friday at Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base in Romania.

About 300 U.S. Army soldiers — from the 1st Battalion, 94th Field Artillery Regiment based in Idar-Oberstein, Germany — teamed up with 100 of their Romanian counterparts to form Deep Steel on Aug. 17.

And so far, so good, said Troy Darr, public affairs officer for Joint Task Force-East, the new command overseeing Deep Steel and future Army brigade-level deployments to the former Eastern bloc nations.

The soldiers, divided into three companies, are rotating between three weeklong exercises at the air base and nearby Babadag Training Area until Oct. 22. Along with Romanian weapons and combat techniques, the American soldiers are learning how to work with their foreign colleagues despite the language barrier.

“It takes longer to communicate and there are some minor cultural differences, but it’s working pretty well so far. We’ll refine it as we go,” Darr said. “The U.S. soldiers are very impressed with the capabilities of their Romanian counterparts.”

One company of American soldiers will spend two weeks at Novo Selo Training Area in Bulgaria beginning Saturday.

Although most of this initial exercise — called “Proof of Principle” — is happening in Romania, operations in Bulgaria will be expanded by the time permanent rotations start in mid-2008, Darr said.

“Eventually we expect other countries will join in with training of the Joint Task Force-East,” he said.

Deep Steel breakdown

About 400 American and Romanian soldiers make up Task Force Deep Steel.Deep Steel falls under the Joint Task Force-East, a new command overseeing the military’s expansion into Romania and Bulgaria.Permanent rotations to the former communist countries — which both joined NATO in 2004 — are set to begin next year.In addition to the soldiers, an additional 250 American airmen, seamen and civilians, and 100 Romanian military personnel make up Joint Task Force-East.Initial training exercises end Oct. 22.Source: Troy Darr, public affairs officer, Joint Task Force-East.


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