Eastern Europe: Forging Bonds in Remote Locations
By Daniel Drummond
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, thousands of U.S. troops have been deployed throughout Eastern Europe in support of our NATO allies. As the conflict continues and tensions throughout the region rise, deployed American troops can always turn to the USO for support in countries such as Germany, Poland and Romania.
Because, thanks to the generosity of the American people, the USO is – literally – always by their side, even if that means going to conflict zones.
Here are brief snapshots from the field of life on the front lines for U.S. troops in Eastern Europe. Specific locations of these Tactical Assembly Areas (TAA) have not been identified for security purposes.
Despite Deployment Hardships, Service Members Stand Strong Together
As they undertake the incredibly important mission of supporting America’s NATO allies during a time of conflict, members of the 82nd Airborne Division largely spend their time training or exercising – both of which keep them at the ready for the mission at hand.
Walking through a TAA, this was clearly evident, as troops utilized the fields around them to run wind sprints, do push-ups and other exercises. Other soldiers bunked just a few feet from one another, sleeping on cots with their rucksacks and weapons by their sides. Others could be seen eating their MREs (that is, a “Meal, Ready to Eat” field ration) or snacks.
“We are keeping up the morale, keeping them engaged,” said Capt. Dang Nguyen of Columbus, Ohio, as he walked through another TAA where more troops were located.
Throughout the TAA, Nguyen pointed to the rows of tents that serve as barracks to more than 600 troops stationed there. Like in many other remote duty stations, the soldiers here have created a home for themselves here, nestled in these tents, where they read books, work out and talk with one another to keep themselves busy during their downtime, when not in the field.
To connect back home, soldiers make calls on phones courtesy of the USO, which are on a secure network and allow service members to safely contact their loved ones.
At another TAA, a group of soldiers outside gather around a fire, not only to keep warm, but also for a shared moment of comradery as they chat about their deployment and shared experience of being thousands of miles away from home.
Capt. Zach McDonald of Mustang, Oklahoma, noted that this deployment to such a remote location might be a blessing in disguise because it allows these soldiers to train while being away from home and, as a result, they are getting “better, stronger, faster.”
McDonald said that the “shared hardship” is “bringing people closer together as a unit,” in which they’ve had meaningful conversations and have built strong friendships.
That is certainly true in Poland, where American troops are coming together for each other, for their mission and for their country over campfires, MREs and even a card game or two.
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