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The shared bases in Romania — and ones to operate in Bulgaria starting in 2008 — were chosen for strategic importance, according to Maj. Gen. Mark Hertling, the U.S. Army Europe operations chief and deputy chief of staff.

“It’s in a critical location with emerging partners, at a location which is really a place that has been a historical transit route for bad guys,” Hertling said in an interview last month.

The bases would house rotating U.S. troops that would train under the command of Joint Task Force East, headquartered at Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base. Other training sites in Romania include Smardan Training Range, Babadag Training Area and Rail Head, and Cincu Training Range.

The primary base to be used in Bulgaria would be Novo Selo Training Area near Sliven, about 150 miles southwest of Mihail Kogalniceanu.

The U.S. will send a battalion to Romania in August from the Vilseck, Germany-based 2nd Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment.

As soon as 2008, full brigades would begin making six-month rotations, with forces split between sites in Romania and Bulgaria. There are plans for the rotating brigade to be headquartered in Novo Selo, Hertling said.

The bases would be run jointly by Romania and the U.S. and wouldn’t resemble U.S. bases in Europe that have family housing, schools and shopping centers. Troops will not be accompanied by their families.

The U.S. signed a Defense Cooperation Agreement with Romania in December 2005 to allow U.S. forces to use the former communist nation for training, pre-positioning of equipment and, if necessary, staging and deploying troops into war zones.

The U.S. signed a similar agreement with Bulgaria in April 2006.

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