Tatum Vayavananda is a US Marine Corporal. currently serving in Romania. Here’s the story of one of his days.
Woke up pretty early today because we had to travel from Mihail Kogalniceanu, a Romanian Army base north of Constanta, Romania (pronounced “Constanza”) to Babadag, about 89 km away. This is where we, Black Sea Rotational Force 11, have set up a training area so we can train with Romanian militaries.
As I got the chance to ride through the countryside, I’ve noticed how much it looks like certain parts of Tennessee! The expansive farmland on each end; seas of green and waves of brown, contrasting with the grey skies in the horizon.
As we pass through little towns, people stare. In small towns, such as these, where the “well-off” own cars, most workers still depend on horse-drawn carriages, and others walk, I always wonder what they think when they see large military hummers roll through. We are the second vehicle so by the time the first one comes through, announcing our arrival like a four-wheeled billboard, the locals’ eyes are ready to thoroughly examine our vehicle. Most of them wave, some of them try to peer through the muddied, armored windows, and some have already lost interest.
As I get to the firing range I find it very similar to one in America. I’m only there for a short time to witness the Romanian and U.S. Marines filling up magazines of ammunition. I have a brief word with the corpsman and I witness the target practice going on; a U.S. Marine shouting out combat-marksmanship drills as a Romanian commander relays his information in the native tongue.
The ride home passes a castle, something I’d imagine you wouldn’t see in Tennessee... Towering in the distance over a blanket of greenery and the shield of expansive space. It stood there, timeless. Classic. From my vantage point, I wonder what it would have been like to be a warrior, standing in a troop formation ready to attack this distant building. I sure would have liked a horse at least!
As we drive past the towns, it seems that school is out; kids of all ages walking through the streets, waving. Too bad I have no candy to share with them, a tactic I used in Iraq to liaison myself as a human to the body-armored, rifle-toting appearance of my protective equipment. We wave and ride by. My thoughts wander about how I would react to military convoys rolling through my town. I wonder if they know why we're here. I hope they don't mind.
It will be an hour later, through muddied, bumpy country roads, that we return to base. Tomorrow we will go to Calfa village, where we are building a fence for a school. I hope to meet some of the kids there. I'll bring candy this time...
Tatum is deployed with Black Sea Rotational Force 11 to Romania. You can read more about the U.S. Marines' mission in the following articles:
Black Sea Rotational Force is a multi-year program where United States Marine Corps units based in the continental United States perform rotational deployments to the Black Sea area of Eastern Europe. Primarily based at Romania's Mihail Kog?lniceanu International Airport, the Task Force purpose is to promote regional stability, build partnerships with nations in the Black Sea, Balkan and Caucasus regions, and build the military training capacity of European armed forces training with United States troops.