Stars and Stripes: US soldiers fight armor, heat, bugs in allied war games in Romania

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Soldiers with the Army’s 2nd Cavalry Regiment began the almost 1,000-mile tactical road march back to Germany Wednesday, hours after battling Romanian “enemies” in an exercise aimed at testing NATO forces’ readiness in the Balkans and Black Sea region.

Exercise Saber Guardian was one of several planned this summer around the Black Sea, where tensions have risen in recent years after Russian naval buildup in the region and its annexation of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014, stripes.com informs.

In the scenario set for the exercise, a heavily armed enemy force attempted to cut off NATO communications around the Black Sea, and an allied unit had to quickly move into position to defend the area and prevent the attack.

The 2nd Cavalry, known as the Dragoons, used Stryker armored vehicles to fight against the Romanian Army’s Soviet-era BTR-80 armored personnel carriers. Thanks to the Strykers’ superior firepower, the Americans neutralized the mock enemy’s home-turf advantage in the central Romanian hills – but not without a fight.

“The Romanians have been training in this area for years and know it really well,” said Capt. Doug McFarland, a troop commander with the regiment. “They used their knowledge of the area to their advantage, which made it difficult for us at times.”

(…) The Romanians weren’t the only adversary the Dragoons faced. Troops on both sides also battled temperatures over 90 degrees Fahrenheit (33 degrees Celsius – our note), high humidity, and voracious mosquitoes.

Mcalvain said he got at least 20 mosquito bites on his face alone, while some of his soldiers were hardly bitten at all.

“There are so many [freaking] mosquitoes here,” Mcalvain said. “Some people have a worse time of it than others.”

Over the next few days, the sunburnt and bitten soldiers will drive their vehicles through several countries back to Vilseck in Germany. Exercise Saber Guardian continues in Romania until June 24.

American tanks in the fields of Ialomita County

During a NATO military drill in Ialomita County, some American tanks had wrong coordinates and went on the fields, destroying the corn and barley crops. The locals got scared when they saw the tanks and called the emergency number 112, digi24.ro reports.

The land owner said he was in the field on the left bank of the Danube when he heard shooting and saw smoke. “One gets scared when seeing tanks. Nobody announced us about the exercise. I wondered if the wheat crop got on fire, but when I got there, at least 30 military vehicles were around. I called 112, the Police arrived but said they cannot put an end to a NATO drill. The damages are high, about 600 hectares,” he said.

Defence Minister Gabriel Les said compensations will be paid to the farmers.

“Compensations will be paid for the crops destroyed so that the farmers are not affected and we will see, as a result of the checks, the circumstances in which this error occurred. We regret it, it happens,” the minister said.

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