CHISINAU, Moldova – Soldiers from the U.S. Army Reserve's 7th Civil Support Command deployed to this Eastern European nation recently to take a closer look at U.S. European Command humanitarian assistance projects.
Five Soldiers from Company A, 457th Civil Affairs Battalion, 361st Civil Affairs Brigade, partnered with Moldovan Soldiers to evaluate seven EUCOM projects to include a children’s rehabilitation center, a fire department, an elementary school sanitation project, a burn treatment clinic and a community center.
“We are here to evaluate how the HA projects align with the Department of State and European Command’s strategic objectives,” said Capt. Nathan Gardner, Company A’s commander, who led the team. “EUCOM provides the funding for these projects. We’re here representing the EUCOM HA program.”
Gardner, a Rocky Mount, N.C.-native, said the assessments determine if the projects were effectively implemented and are being sustained by Moldova, a partner nation. They give their work to EUCOM headquarters and the U.S. Embassy in Moldova’s Office of Defense Cooperation
“So far, all the projects we have seen have built capacity, impacted the Moldovan people in a positive way and been sustained by our Moldovan partners,” Gardner said.
“We’re going back within three to five years [after a HA project] was completed. We go to see what the state of the project is and if it meets EUCOM requirements,” said Staff Sgt. Dorian Pekarcik, a Espanola, N.M.-native who expertise includes civil and mechanical engineering.
At each site, the team spoke with key leaders, project supervisors and people who use the services, Pekarcik said. Roughly 50 percent of the Moldovan citizens interviewed knew of U.S. involvement in the projects.
“One of the shop owners knew that the U.S. had invested money to get the project going,” Pekarcik said, after a fire station visit. “We’re seeing that they have an idea that the U.S. was involved, but they don’t know all the details.”
For Sgt. Jacob Francis, of Estes Park, Colo., the trip offered a chance to work as both a linguist and team sergeant. The U.S. Army Reserve Soldier speaks Romanian. Each day, he’d read local newspapers to better understand Moldovan views. He also prepared the team with basic culture and language instruction.
“I’m bringing a political, cultural and language expertise to the HA assessment mission. My experience living and working in Romania helped [immensely].”
One assessment took the team to the Moldovan National Rehabilitation Center in Ceadir-Lunga. Once a regional tuberculosis clinic, it’s now reconfigured to meet a nationwide rehabilitation need for disabled children.
Today, the center is providing rehabilitation services [for a majority of child patients] with neurotic issues, orthopedic issues and pulmonary issues,” said Dr. Tatiana Damascan, chief doctor at the center. “They [the U.S.] are our partners and we only have good thoughts about them.”
Pekarcik enjoyed his visit to the rehabilitation center, he said, especially interacting with happy children undergoing treatment.
“The facility is very clean and well taken care of,” Pekarcik said. “The project was a real success. I believe they will continue to keep up with the facility and as time goes on they will continue to expand and make it better.”
Moldovan Soldiers made key contributions to the assessments and reports, Gardner said, as they “view the projects from a Moldova perspective.”
Moldovan Army 1st Lt. Simion Bitca, a military intelligence officer from Moldova’s special forces battalion, was familiar with the U.S. projects, how they are managed and how U.S. troops operate overseas.
“It’s important for us because we have similar activities,” Bitca said. “It will be a good experience for us for the future projects in our country or also for the future missions for my battalion.”
Having Moldovan soldiers on the team builds their capabilities and shapes ours, said Staff Sgt. David Heath, a Company A team sergeant.
“They not only helped with the translation, they asked pertinent questions and gave us nuanced feedback from the staff at the different HA sites we visited,” Heath said. “They helped us accomplish our mission through their local knowledge and contributed to our assessments.”