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KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany – Hundreds of American troops are in the countries of Georgia and Romania, training in separate exercises this month.

A rotation of about 900 U.S. servicemembers are in Romania to improve combat skills and build relations with their Romanian counterparts. Joint Task Force East — which oversees training in Romania and Bulgaria — marked the second annual training rotation with a ceremony at MK Airfield, near the coastal town of Constanta.

The military has dubbed the rotational unit Task Force Vampire.

U.S. European Command is hoping to eventually rotate brigade-sized units in and out of Romania for training. The military sent its first rotation of soldiers last summer as part of the 2007 Proof of Principle Exercise.

"Every year we learn something new," said Maj. Jennifer Johnson, a Joint Task Force East spokeswoman. "Every time someone rotates in here, we pick something up that we didn’t know before."

A company from the Hohenfels, Germany-based 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry is among the units deployed to Romania. The unit expects to deploy to Afghanistan and serve with Romanian troops at a later date, Johnson said.Other U.S. units include Army National Guard units from Utah and North Dakota along with the Gulfport, Miss.-based Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 74. American and Romanian squads are integrated throughout the exercise and will focus on combat training using simulated ammunition to make the training as realistic as possible, Johnson said. The rotation ends its tour in Romania on July 30.

In Georgia, another 1,000 soldiers from the Vicenza, Italy-based Southern European Task Force (Airborne) and the Kaiserslautern-based 21st Theaters Sustainment Command along with Marines with the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines and the state of Georgia’s Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 121st Infantry are participating in an exercise called "Immediate Response 2008." They are joined by soldiers from Armenia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan to build relations and boost security operations training. The exercise is designed to "promote understanding and cooperation," a U.S. European Command press release said.

The exercise comes as Georgia has tried to build stronger ties with NATO members and tensions with Russia have increased.

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