LVN Editor Emeritus Steve Ranson accompanied a Nevada National Guard team during a unit visit in Romania.
Since last summer, the Nevada Army National Guard’s 137th Military Police Co., has been providing law enforcement functions and investigations at the military sector of the Mihail Kogalniceanu International Airport northeast of Constanta, a resort some call the Miami Beach along the Baltic Sea.
Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base 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 host Romania. Not too long ago, Canadian military forces headed home from Romania, and Italy replaced our neighbors to the north at the NATO base.
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 fly over the countryside heading toward MK Air Base. At one time, it appeared that a helicopter trip to Bulgaria would give us a glimpse of the MPs working in that country, but a low ceiling and blustery winter weather scrubbed that mission.
On several occasions, I saw helicopter activity over the base, and on my final day at MK Air Base, a Chinook flew overhead as I was leaving to return my vehicle at the civilian side of the airport.
For Nevada’s Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Ondra Berry, and his staff, leaving Bucharest for the air base gave a glimpse of every day life the average Romanian experiences. Before we saw any countryside, our two drivers followed each other along Bucharest’s busy streets shortly after 8 a.m. Navigating the routes 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.
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.
From a distance, the communities appear to be a scene out of rural America, but on a closer look, the villages had their share of dirt streets and smaller houses.
A jam-packed day awaited us upon our arrival at Mihail Kogalniceanu, named after the country’s third prime minister who served in the 1860s. 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. 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 the housing and the office buildings, the fire department and post exchange. Hernandez is the provost marshal, the police chief of a garrison community that varies in population. One day the population could be 3,500 residents. A week later it could be 4,000. Eventually, we have learned, the military population could increase to 10,000.
We all met for breakfast at the dining facility and were entertained by a Romanian Navy band based in Constanta. It played hymns that are well known to the Romanians, and included hymns and marches familiar to the U.S. Army personnel eating chow.
The general’s whirlwind visit highlighted our first full day at MK Air Base. Lt. Col. Brian Fiddermon, the Army Support Activity Black Sea commander, 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. Fiddermon gave the adjutant general 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.
Steve Ranson is editor emeritus of the Lahontan Valley News and currently writes military and veterans articles for the Nevada News Group.
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