The Romanians

Text: SFC Eduardo Bermudez
Photo: SGT Juan Bernal

When we went to Notting Hill on Dec. 1, the Belgian/Romanian camp southwest of the city of Leposavic, we were expecting to find a big celebration for the Romanian National Day. Instead, we found a couple of Romanian flags and more Belgian ones, a lot of busy people going back and forth, and the Belgians clearing the area to make room for the new tenants.

Fortunately, Romanian Army Lieutenant Alexandru Kis saw the big question marks stuck on our foreheads and explained what was going on. "We are taking over," he said. "But, what about the celebration?" we asked. "There is no time to celebrate. The Belgians are leaving the camp to us, because now it is our task to accomplish the mission assigned to this sector." A simple parade, along with the TOA within the Romanians, happened at 9:00. And that was it.

From now on, 86 Romanian men will provide security, patrol the main roads and paths, survey the border with Serbia by temporary and permanent Observation Points, and execute the FRAGOS affecting them, among other missions.

They will work under the operational control of the Battle Group, based in Leposavic, where other than Belgians, and of course Romanians, we can find a Reconnaissance platoon from Luxemburg.

One NCO and 2 soldiers will act as the liaison cell from the Romanian Company to the Battle Group.

To perform their reconnaissance (recce) tasks, they use Romanian-made B-33 "ZIMBRU" Armoured Personal Carriers (APC). These APCs have 4 wheels and resemble somehow the French "Frogs", but with a more square-like body design. Well… we know that whenever design and style are concerned, the French are almost unbeatable.

When it comes to Combat Support, they use a different 8- wheeled version of the ZIMBRU. In total (recce and combat support) they have 8 units.

The Company, commanded by Captain Gheju Dorin, is an actual Infantry Company back in Rumania, the 1st Company of the 812th Infantry Battalion, stationed in the City of Bistrita. Their tour of duty in Kosovo will last 4 months. After this period another Company from the same Battalion will replace this Company.

They count on attached units as reinforcements to their original composition, such as:

  • A Medical Unit with a doctor and a paramedic/driver with a 4-wheeled, all-terrain ambulance.

  • A Signal Unit to keep links with home (Romania is not that far from Kosovo). Just a single dipole antenna and a HF band radio transceiver are good enough to communicate with the rest of the world. They have this configuration installed in a Jeep Panther. For tactical comms they use VHF equipment.

  • A maintenance truck, for mechanic support and repairs.

  • A few trucks for heavy transportation and Jeep Panther cars for light transportation.

The individual weapon they use is a wooden-handle rifle with a calibre of 5,45 mm. It has no special name, but looks like a version of the famous Russian Kalaschnikov. For individual protection they use a not-very-heavy flak jacket good enough to stop small-gun bullets and de-fragmentation from explosions caused by personnel mines or grenades.

Romania is a non-NATO country, which has already applied to enter the NATO community. The assignment of this sector has got a lot to do with this. The Romanians are testing themselves in the NATO environment, and NATO is testing how Romanians perform within the NATO community. There are probably many issues to be resolved until they finally make it into NATO and the EU, but if the Romanians are as friendly and polite as Lt. Alexandru Kis, things will be much easier for them.