LVN Editor Emeritus Steve Ranson is accompanying a Nevada National Guard team as they visit a unit in Romania.
Winter’s frosty breath stretches for miles across eastern Romania, a country near the western edge of Ukraine’s conflict with Russia.
Since the summer, the Nevada Army National Guard’s 137th Military Police Company has been providing law enforcement functions and investigations at the military sector of the Mihail Kogalniceanu International Airport 15 miles northeast of Constanta, a resort some call the Miami Beach along the Baltic Sea.
Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base (MKAB) adjacent to the civilian operations is home to Romania’s 57th Air Base where more than 3,500 military personnel are assigned from a handful of countries including the United States, Italy and hos Romania. Not too long ago, Canadian military forces headed home from Romania, but no one can confirm if the Canadians set up a Tim Horton’s coffee and doughnut shop like they did in Afghanistan at Kandahar. Units such as an armor brigade or army aviation rotate out of the installation as do aircraft. It’s not uncommon to see a Blackhawk or Chinook helicopter flying over the countryside heading toward MKAB.
Leaving Bucharest along the city’s busy streets shortly after 8 a.m. took more than 45 minutes with the stop-and-go traffic, but once our small group riding in two vehicles reached the open spaces, the trip took less than two hours for us to reach MKAB. The windswept land easily resembles the South Dakota landscape of flat land and grass bending to the wind against its will. The divided four-lane highway provided smooth transit until we departed the modern thoroughfare to a windy two-lane route that took us across rolling hills and small bridges and through a handful of small Romanian villages.
A jam-packed day awaited us upon our arrival at MKAB. After meeting with the MP Company’s commander, Capt. Bryan Hernandez of Fernley, Major Gen. Ondra Berry, the Silver State’s adjutant general, and a number of visiting Nevada Army National Guard soldiers met with the garrison commander. General Berry received a comprehensive report on the base’s mission and the round-the-clock work of the MPs at the installation.
The MPs are the law and order for housing and the office buildings.
Lt. Col. Brian Fiddermon, the Army Support Activity Black Sea commander, took over as garrison commander in early August. He greeted the Nevada group for more than an hour and praised the work of the military police and their various roles at the NATO installation. A University of Maryland at Eastern Shore graduate, Fiddermon gave Berry a glowing report on the MP company in front of Hernandez. Berry said he was pleased with the garrison commander’s honest, positive assessment of the Nevada MPs.
General Berry — along with Brig. General Troy Armstrong, the Land Component commander; state chaplain Maj. Todd Brown; Chief Warrant 4 John Nielsen, the state’s chief warrant officer; and State Command Sgt. Major Dennis Basillio, relayed Fiddermon’s comments and also asked soldiers to discuss any of their concerns. Berry and his staff made the two-hour meeting electrifying, honoring soldiers for their mission at MKAB and awarding challenge coins and kudos. Both Maj. Ryanmay Orolfo, a 1999 Churchill County High School graduate and General Berry’s executive officer, and me assisted by taking photos of the various recipients.
Future plans call for expansion on the military side of MKAB, but another Nevada deployment to Romania’s base near the Baltic Sea depends on future world events that dictate additional unit strength.