A new crop of East Coast group of II MEF Marines are at have taken the helm of the Black Sea Rotational Force, which provides extra security in Eastern Europe.
The 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, transferred authority of the Black Sea Rotational Force to 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, in a Jan. 22 ceremony aboard the Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base in Constanta, Romania.
The BSRF is set to "meet the challenges of the new European security environment to ensure a whole, free, peaceful and prosperous Europe," Gen. Philip Breedlove, the head of U.S. European Command commander, said in a statement.
The new rotation will carry on the BSRF's mission of bolstering security in Eastern Europe, including deploying its new Combined Arms Company.
Although numbering about 700 Marines, the BRSF plays a critical role in the region through training allies and acting as a rapid-crisis response force.
Over the lpast six months, the BSRF completed seven multilateral exercises and almost 50 joint military engagements in over more than 10 European countries.
With Russia's continued involvement in the conflict in Ukraine, its annexation of Crimea and belligerence towards the Baltic States, the Marines' presence is meant to reassure America's allies of its commitment to the region.
The changeover also saw the end of the new Combined Arms Company’s first rotation, which arrived at the Novo Selo Training Area in Bulgaria last August. Since then, it’s conducted three multinational live-fire exercises with more than over five different nations, honing their ability to fight side by side with American forces.
The 150 Marines assigned to the unit are equipped with four Abrams main battle tanks, six light armored vehicles and three howitzers.
During Platinum Lion 16-1 in last November, for example, Marine tanks got to shoot and move with Bulgarian armored vehicles as they practiced offensive and defensive operations.
"During Platinum Lion, we really hit the mark on what the CAC is out here to do, which is to show our NATO allies the capabilities we can bring to the table with armor and artillery," Capt. Dan Whitt, the outgoing CAC commander, said in a Marine Corps press release "We proved that we can fight effectively side-by-side with integrated combined arms."
Beginning in February, the unit will begin cold weather training with partner nations in Latvia.
Matthew L. Schehl covers training and education, recruiting, West Coast Marines, MARSOC, and operations in Europe, Africa and the Middle East for Marine Corps Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.