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Army Reserve Soldiers trek 582 miles across Europe for Operation Saber Guardian 19

By Maj. Thomas Piernicky | 4th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) | June 17, 2019

CINCU, ROMANIA —

U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers with the 211th Regional Support Group drove through three countries to participate in Operation Saber Guardian 19, from May 28-29 2019. 

Saber Guardian 2019 (SG19) is an exercise co-led by Romanian Land Forces and US Army Europe, taking place from June 3-24 at various locations in Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania. Included among the many different training events at SG19, there will be vehicle road marches, a medical exercise, multiple river crossings and an air assault. SG19 is designed to improve the integration of multinational combat forces.
For more information on Operation Saber Guardian 19, please visit: https://www.eur.army.mil/SaberGuardian/

The group started in Alexandroupolis, Greece, and then drove through Bulgaria before finally arriving at Cincu, Romania. The 211th RSG could have used a train to bring the vehicles from the port in Greece to Romania, but saw this as an opportunity to develop Soldier skills. 

“It was not only to make sure they got there safely and securely, but to also develop driver skills with direct experience,” said 2nd Lt. Trevor Rotman, a vehicle commander for the convoy, and Quartermaster Officer with the 211th RSG.

Safety was a primary consideration for the convoy. The task before them was daunting as no one in the convoy was familiar with the area and had to drive long hours over 582 miles to reach their destination. 
“The trip took two days with a 0700 start time on the 28th of May and we arrived at Ruse, Bulgaria around 2230,” said Capt. Forrest Taylor, the convoy commander, and a Quartermaster Officer with the 211th RSG. “The next day we took off at 0800 and reached Cincu, Romania around 1930.” 

An additional challenge presented itself during the trip, which significantly complicated the convoy’s plan. When the group got to Bulgaria, their civilian police escort insisted on taking a different route than what they originally planned. 

“We had to argue with Bulgarians about the route we were taking,” said Taylor. “They said the route was too dangerous and Soldiers would get killed. They forced us to change routes, which meant we were not following the convoy plan. We travelled on a road through the mountains on a winding, one lane road. The turns were ridiculous. We went for about four to six hours of that.”

Rotman said heavy traffic and erratic drivers weaving through the convoy caused delays and put the soldiers on their highest guard, further complicating the trip. By the time they reached their destination, the drivers were exhausted. 

Despite the added hardships, the Soldiers enjoyed much of the trip for a number of reasons. Pfc. Syndiejoe Reyna, a driver in the convoy, enjoyed the sightseeing in the different countries. 

“I remember when we came into Valcea, Romania there were mountains and a waterfall,” said Reyna. “It was beautiful.”

In addition to the beauty of the landscape, the convoy team remembers the reactions of the people along the route. 

“For the most part, people from Greece to Romania were happy to see us,” said Taylor. “They waved back and smiled. Some even approached us and said, ‘I remember when I was a Soldier. We support you. Glad to have you here.’”

Rotman remembers how welcoming the Romanians were during the trip. 

“The Romanians were very friendly and outgoing,” said Rotman. “They came out to the street or stopped their cars and flashed their lights. They wanted to interact with us.”

The opportunity to interact with people from other countries and cultures is another highlight the team remembers. 

“From my perspective, it is a completely new experience to get us familiar with working in a new environment and with new cultures,” said Reyna. 

Joint training exercises like Saber Guardian 19 allow U.S. military forces to work and train with foreign military allies. By working together, our U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers learn how to build interoperability among NATO forces and prepare for times of crisis.

“We get to train in a foreign country and get to integrate and interact with foreign military,” Rotman said. “It teaches us new social norms and we learn how to better interact with our allies.”

With the 211th RSG relocating to Romania for their annual training, it provided unique and valuable experiences for the Soldiers. 

“It is almost like a mini deployment,” said Taylor. “This kind of simulated deployment is something every Reserve Soldier should do every year.”

The 211th Regional Support Group is part of the 4th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary). The 4th ESC is made up of Soldiers, civilians and their families in units headquartered throughout Texas, New Mexico, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. As part of America’s Army Reserve, these units are trained, combat-ready and equipped to provide military and logistical support in any corner of the globe.