There was no mistaking the “palpable tensions” of discontent between the U.S. and Romania more than two decades ago, Navy Capt. Tom Rowden said.

But “today, the Black Sea is a different world,” Rowden, commander of Task Force 65, said Wednesday in a telephone interview from the guided-missile destroyer USS Porter as it sailed the Black Sea.

USS Porter sailors, based in Norfolk, Va., are midway through a five-month deployment. In early February, they sailed through the Turkish Straits to begin more than two weeks of training in the Black Sea and with Romanian and Ukrainian navies.

Their mission is part of U.S. European Command’s focus on what military leaders often refer to as the push “south and east” of Europe.

“This is the east part of south and east,” said Lt. Chris Servello, a spokesman for the Navy’s 6th Fleet, based in Italy. “We’re getting into the Black Sea, working with those navies.”

The push south is training military forces in African countries.

The naval training comes on the heels of the Dec. 6 signing of an agreement between the U.S. and Romanian governments that has set the stage for talks between military leaders on how the bases will be used.

The recent training with the Romanian navy covered several topics, including building a strong noncommissioned officer corps, boarding suspicious vessels and firefighting, Rowden said. Romanian navy leaders expressed keen interest in flight operations, specifically landing helicopters on ships, Rowden said.

The U.S. sailors recently wrapped up training with Romania and now are heading to Ukraine, he said.

An overarching goal to the U.S. Navy training Romanian and Ukrainian navies is so the two navies can be part of the antiterrorism effort called Operation Active Endeavor, launched in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the U.S.

Already, seven non-NATO nations — Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordon, Morocco, Russia and Tunisia — expressed desires to join.

The Russian navy began training this month with NATO forces to take part in the antiterrorism operation in which navies patrol the Mediterranean Sea, targeting terrorists, human traffickers, and drug and weapons smugglers.

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