US deploys THAAD anti-missile system in first deployment to Romania

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American troops offload a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) launcher from a C-17 Globemaster III at Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base, Romania, May 3, 2019. The THAAD deployed to Romania from 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command out of Fort Hood, Texas. The deployment of the THAAD is in support of the NATO Ballistic Missile Defense mission and reinforces the strong and unremitting U.S. commitment to the defense of our NATO allies. (Army photograph by Sgt. 1st Class Jason Epperson)

Approximately 100 soldiers from Fort Hood, Texas, deployed to Romania in April as the NATO’s Aegis Ashore Ballistic Missile Defense site undergoes a long-planned upgrade. The soldiers will temporarily emplace a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system at the remote site for approximately three months.

Soldiers from B Battery (THAAD), 62nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command arrived at the Naval Support Facility Deveselu in Romania in April and have begun building the temporary site for the launching pad alongside with local contractors.

At the request of NATO, the U.S. Secretary of Defense deployed the B-62 (THAAD) personnel and equipment from Fort Hood, more than 6,000 miles away, to begin the summer mission here. The U.S. Air Force, Army and Navy played a critical role in supporting the deployment, planned by the 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command and Task Force Buckeyes, the Ohio Army National Guard’s 174th Air Defense Artillery Brigade from Columbus, Ohio, currently deployed to Europe as 10 AAMDC’s Mission Command Element.

A U.S. Navy security officer (left) assigned to Naval Support Facility Deveselu and U.S. Army paratrooper assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team establish a temporary entry control point for the movement of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) to be emplaced at NSF Deveselu, Romania May 17. (Army photograph by Capt. Joshua St. John)

U.S. Army Capt. Joshua St. John, B-62 (THAAD) company commander, said this mission is important because it marks the first THAAD integration with NATO.

“We are supporting the Aegis Ashore and the commitment of forces to NATO and the ongoing phased approach to missile defense in the Army,” St. John said. “Some long term implications we now know are that THAAD can integrate into a NATO environment and rapidly employ joint air missile defense operations while the Aegis Ashore system will be upgraded.”

St. John, a native of Logan, Utah, said the unit received the THAAD equipment a little over a year ago and went straight into gunnery certifications. After the certification, the unit began training at White Sands, New Mexico, before being notified about the upcoming deployment to Romania.

A convoy of Romanian trucks carrying a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor system leave Mihail Kogalniceanu (MK) Air Base, Romania, in route to Naval Support Facility Deveselu, Romania May 10. The 400-kilometer convoy was the longest the THAAD system has traveled on road outside of the continental U.S. The deployment of the THAAD is in support of the NATO Ballistic Missile Defense mission and reinforces the strong and unremitting U.S. commitment to the defense of our NATO allies. (Army photograph by Master Sgt. James Redd)

“As soon as we were notified about this mission our equipment was still at the last exercise and not at home station and so, to transport it, recover and put it back on the boat and then deploy forward was a huge process,” he said. “Soldiers had been gone away from their families for weeks, came home for a few weeks and then got right back out the door. The ability and the effort from the soldiers and their willingness to serve were incredible.”

Another first for the unit was planning the complicated movement of thousands of pounds of equipment valued at over a billion dollars from Texas to Romania with no past blueprint to reference.

“This was the first deployment of THAAD out of Fort Hood, so that was a new process working with our transportation offices to make sure that they understand the requirements moving forward in the future and they were great to work with,” he said.

U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Travis Washington, B-62 (THAAD) first sergeant, said that the mission was a great opportunity for soldiers to work with the Navy, and other agencies, integrating two different systems.

From left: U.S. Navy Capt. Jackie Knick, commander of Naval Support Facility Deveselu; U.S. Army Lt. Col. Sean Kelleher, commander of Task Force Buckeyes; Romanian Lt. Col. Costel Ivanenscu, chief of logistics; Col. Gheorghe Stancu, chief of staff; and Col. R�zvan Br�tulescu, base commander of the 99th Military Base Deveselu discuss priorities, partnership opportunities and community relations events during a bi-weekly synchronization meeting at Naval Support Facility Deveselu, Romania, May 17. (Army photograph by Sgt. 1st Class Jason Epperson)

“The long-term goal is to build a better relationship with NATO parties when it comes to air defense as a whole to make the branch better,” Washington, a native of Augusta, Ga. said. “I’m just glad my soldiers are able to experience this type of mission and be a part of NATO and represent 69th brigade and 32nd Air Defense as a whole.”

The arrival of Army soldiers to the Navy base, which has been operational since 2015, took a lot of hard work and coordination.

U.S. Navy Capt. Jackie Knick, commander of Naval Support Facility Deveselu, said he has not worked with Army soldiers before, but despite learning the learning curve for the Army’s affinity for acronyms, the mission has been smooth.

“One of my biggest concerns was to make sure the facilities here were ready for [the incoming soldiers] and then logistically trying to get everything in here at Deveselu,” Knick said. “I’ve seen a laundry list of things coming from Texas, Alabama and other places. It actually went pretty easily from my standpoint.”

Air defense soldiers assigned to B Battery (THAAD), 62nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command unload flooring for a Battery Command Post during a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system emplacement at Naval Support Facility Deveselu, Romania May 17. The unit arrived in Romania in April to emplace a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system while NATO’s Aegis Ashore Ballistic Missile Defense site undergoes a long-planned update in the upcoming months. (Navy photograph by PO2 Jonathan Hill)

In order to support the Army’s mission, the Navy is working to ensure everyone stays on the agreed timeline and the Aegis Ashore project proceeds as planned.

“The sooner we get completed, the sooner the Army can get out of here and move on to whatever tasking comes next,” Knick said.

Knick said that a big key is getting everything in place and operational to support the additional manpower on the small facility located within the Romanian 99th Military Base, near the city Caracal in southwest portion of the county. With a strong partnership intact between the Romanians and the U.S. Navy, bringing Army soldiers into the mix required some additional logistical support that was overseen by Romanian Col. Razvan Bratulescu, 99th Military Base commander.

Bratulescu says he’s gone through this process before with the arrival of the U.S. Navy several years ago and he wants to make sure everyone feels welcome here on base.

“I know how difficult it is to be away from home,” Bratulescu said. “I will do my best to make sure everyone feels welcome as long as they are here. This base is pretty large, so we can accommodate much more people than we already are now.”

U.S. Army Col. David E. Shank, commander of the 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, conducts a site survey with U.S. Army Cpt. Joshua St. John, B-62 (THAAD) commander, to inspect troops’ living conditions at Naval Support Facility (NSF) Deveselu, Romania May 9, 2019. The THAAD deployed to Romania from 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command out of Fort Hood, Texas. (Army photograph by Sgt. 1st Class Jason Epperson)

Bratulescu said that working with the U.S. military has been really great and the level of cooperation is incredible due to the professionalism of all involved. He added that he’d like to see the soldiers get involved in community events alongside the Navy.

“We have open communications with local institutions in the county to make sure that the [service members] are well treated by the local population,” he said. “We usually participate together in community events organized by us and the local community. We try to integrate them into the local communities.”

Other units participating in the mission in Romania include members of 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team from Vincenza, Italy; 51st Expeditionary Signal Battalion from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.; Explosive Ordnance Disposal with 21st Theater Support Command from Kaiserslautern, Germany; and civilian employees from Anniston Army Depot, Ala., and the Missile Defense Agency.

The Aegis Ashore is a key element of NATO Ballistic Missile Defense, which protects Europe from ballistic missile threats outside the European theater. The scheduled update to Aegis Ashore Romanian is part of regular updates taking place on all U.S. Aegis systems.
 

U.S. Army Paratroopers assigned to Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team (ABCT) provide security during the deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) to Naval Support Facility Deveselu, Romania May 15, 2019. The 173rd ABCT Security Force are responsible for the security of the longest land convoy outside of the continental U.S. for the THAAD asset. (Army photograph by Sgt. 1st Class Jason Epperson)

 
Air defense soldiers assigned to B Battery (THAAD), 62nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command prepare to emplace a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system at Naval Support Facility Deveselu, Romania May 17. The unit arrived in Romania in April to emplace a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system while NATO’s Aegis Ashore Ballistic Missile Defense site undergoes a long-planned update in the upcoming months. (Navy photograph by PO2 Jonathan Hill)