Afghanistan-bound U.S. troops departed from the military’s new transit hub in Romania this week, marking a first for the new facility, which will play a key role as the United States draws down in Afghanistan in the year ahead.
On Monday, about 300 soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division took off for a nine-month rotation from Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base, which the military refers to as the MK Passenger Transit Center.
The center was established as a replacement for the Manas Transit Center in Kyrgyzstan, which is slated to close in July.
The new MK Passenger Transit Center was built by soldiers from the 902nd Engineer Company (Vertical), which operates under the umbrella of the Germany-based 21st Theater Sustainment Command.
In June, the Kyrgyz parliament voted not to extend the U.S. military’s lease at Manas, which has served as a main transit point for troops moving into and out of Afghanistan over the years.
In October, the U.S. Defense Department announced it would shift the mission of transiting troops and cargo to a facility in Romania.
The MK Transit Center provides “essential logistical, transportation, reintegration and morale and welfare services,” according to the 21st TSC.
“This is one of several transportation hubs that will ensure our war fighters get into and out of theater quickly, safely and efficiently, ready to execute missions or reintegrate into their Families, units and communities as the case may be,” said Lt. Col. Wayne Marotto, spokesman for the 21st TSC, in a news release.
The base, near Romania’s Black Sea port town of Constanta, can accommodate about 2,000 transiting personnel at a time and maintains a contingent of roughly 350 servicemembers and civilians to operate the transit center.
So far, some troops appear to prefer the facility in Romania to the transit center it will replace in Kyrgyzstan, according to the 21st TSC release.
“Our stay here has been a lot better than at Manas,” Spc. Stephen Mayville, a transiting soldier from Grass Lake, Mich., was quoted as saying. “The facilities are awesome; they actually have buildings instead of tents.”