Active, Guard and Reserve Soldiers make Saber Guardian facilities ready for action

By Capt. Doug Magill, 7th Mission Support Command Public Affairs | Black Sea Area Support Team | July 16, 2017

NOVO SELO, Bulgaria — It’s show time for the Black Sea Area Support Team.

The 35-person team oversees and executes all aspects of operational and strategic operations for Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base in Romania and the Novo Selo Training Area in Bulgaria. Twenty of the team’s 35 people are members of either the Army Reserve or National Guard.

Both locations play a critical role in supporting Atlantic Resolve and the annual Saber Guardian exercise is the hallmark event for both installations and for the BSAST. The 2017 edition of Saber Guardian is being conducted July 11-20.

“This is the big event for not just the Black Sea region, but for all of Europe,” said Col. Steven Shepherd, commander of the Black Sea Area Support Team. “We use Saber Guardian to build muscle tissue and show the world what those two camps can do.”

The BSAST-Provisional was stood up Oct. 1, 2016 as a subordinate element of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command and served as the de facto headquarters element for both locations.

The BSAST role has shifted a little bit since it stood up.

Installation Management Command arrived in February, took command in March and became fully operational in July, said Scott Seitz, Black Sea Area Support Team deputy commander.

Since then, the BSAST has been handing off responsibility to the Black Sea IMCOM team for current operations while the BSAST focuses on future operations. A representative for the Black Sea IMCOM team said responsibilities for base operations are gradually being handed off from BSAST to the IMCOM team as IMCOM builds toward adequate staffing and funding.

Saber Guardian is held in the Black Sea region and consists of 25,000 military personnel from 22 allied and partner nations – including 14,000 United States military personnel.

It leaves Shepherd and his team with a unique, delicate mission of meeting the needs of multiple nations with limited resources, while at the same time demonstrating the United States’ commitment to the defense and prosperity of the Black Sea region.

“That good will can extend 200 years,” Shepherd said. “That tells you how important it is what we’re doing here right now.”

Shepherd, himself, is a member of the Alabama National Guard and his team has a total of 20 Army Reserve and National Guard Soldiers.

He completes his one-year unaccompanied tour in October. His next task with be preparing the handover of the BSAST to his successor, once Saber Guardian is complete.

“We’re a small team made up of a variety of components that do a lot of hard work to forge relationships in these countries,” Shepherd said. “They don’t get a lot of credit for the hard work they do. It’s 24-7, they work on weekends, holidays, making sure stuff happens. We’re the face of the United States down here.”

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