A unit of the South Dakota Army National Guard has been ordered to mobilize for deployment to Romania to support U.S. and international operations in Europe.
The Rapid City-based 216th is a three-member unit that oversees fire protection of aviation assets, facilities and installations. The deployment is scheduled for July 2017.
The military says the unit will report to Fort Bliss, Texas, to complete several weeks of training prior to deployment overseas.
🇺🇸 US Army
MC-12S 13-00282 DRAGN82 – Tracking Eastbound over Romania on its first operational deployment! 🛰 pic.twitter.com/eMaDSzWD0f
— Aircraft Spots (@aircraftspots) July 10, 2017
US troops are currently on deployment in Romania as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, supporting security and stability in Europe. Members of the US 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team are working with the Romanian 282nd Mechanised Brigade. Around 3,500 members of the 3rd ABCT are currently deployed to Europe.
It’s the second mobilization for the 216th, which was deployed in Iraq from December 2003 to June 2005.
— 2d Cavalry Regiment (@2dCavalryRegt) July 14, 2017
A deployment ceremony will be held for the South Dakota Army National Guard’s 216th Engineer Detachment (Firefighting Team) at 10 a.m. July 17, at the Mount Rushmore National Memorial amphitheater.
The United States has decided to accelerate the deployment of troops to Poland, the Baltic states and Romania as part of an effort to improve the security of the region, Polish and US defense officials said.
— 2d Cavalry Regiment (@2dCavalryRegt) July 13, 2017
On Tuesday the State Department approved the sale of $3.9 billion in patriot missile systems to NATO-member Romania after prior Russia warnings that such actions could be met with severe reprisals.
The Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a statement on Tuesday that the sale will boost the defensive capabilities of the Romanian military.
“The proposed sale of the Patriot system will support Romania’s needs for its own self-defense and support NATO defense goals,” the agency said.
The US Congress now has 30 days to object to the deal, but it is not expected to do so as Romania is an important NATO ally of the United States. Romania has been a NATO member since 2004 and has contributed troops to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The agreement comes as the US military deployed a Patriot battery in Lithuania as part of multinational NATO exercises in the country.
Russia has expressed concerns over Romania’s hosting of a US missile shield, calling it a threat to Russian security.
The announcement, issued through the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency, is sure to be a huge shot across the bow following on the heels of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s earlier unambiguous words (issued in May) regarding further NATO build-up in the large Balkan country:
May 28, 2016 – Putin tells Poland and Romania: You’re in the CROSSHAIRS of Russian … VLADIMIR Putin has put Poland and Romania “in the crosshairs” of Russian rockets, … Moscow considers the high-tech missile shield a threat to its security.”
In April of 2017, Moscow has previously criticized Washington for deploying ballistic missile systems in Romania, saying the deployment would violate the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INFT) signed between the US and the Soviet Union in late 1980s.
The United States switched on an $800 million missile shield in Romania in 2016 and was planning to create another site in Poland, seeing it as vital to defend itself and Europe from so-called rogue states. In 2016, the Kremlin said it was aimed at blunting its own nuclear arsenal.
In April this year, American and Romanian military forces conducted a joint military exercise within the framework of the NATO.
Washington has defended the deployment as a bid to protect itself and Europe from what it calls Russia’s “threats.”
The US military buildup in Eastern Europe, however, is perceived as an effort to curb Russia’s influence.