Carson City MPs have provided security at NATO base in Romania
MIHAIL KOGĂLNICEANU, Romania — The last 45 days have been busy for Nevada Army National Guard’s military police detachment that’s winding down its deployment at Romania’s Mihail Kogălniceanu Air Base.
The 137th Military Police Det., headquartered in Carson City, deployed during the late summer last year to Eastern Europe. The law enforcement officers have either been patrolling the Army garrison at the NATO air base , near the Black Sea or performing shifts as desk sergeants. The Carson City unit has been providing security until they return home to Northern Nevada sometime this spring.
About 40 soldiers deployed to Romania while two dozen soldiers remained home in Nevada in case of any domestic situations.
“It’s been pretty busy,” said Sgt. Tyler George, who has spent most of his time as an investigator.
In his civilian job at the Hawthorne Army Depot, George also works as an investigator, and he finds similarities in both positions.
In addition to applying what they learned from their coursework in Nevada, George said the law enforcement officers are able to apply “the schoolhouse” instruction to the streets. Furthermore, he said the officers receive invaluable assistance when the desk sergeant notifies them of a possible need for investigation.
George, who deployed to Kuwait in 2016-2017, said the detachment has worked with the judge advocate and other countries which have sent military personnel to the MK Air Base.
“This has been more hands on,” he said about the deployment. “The mission is more direct. We enforce the law.”
Staff Sgt. Ernest Lopez previously deployed twice before the unit’s arrival in Romania. He’s a civilian operations engineering apprentice for Caesars Palace.
“It’s been interesting for sure,” he said about his time in Romania.
Lopez said his first deployment was at Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, in 2015-2015 and to Kuwait in 2016-2017.
“Afghanistan was still pretty hot,” he said of the bombings.
Lopez was assigned to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and then attached to the U.S. embassy.
Sgt. Edmarraymick Foronda, a 2011 Spring Creek High School graduate, has cross trained on the desk, patrolled and sometimes conducted investigations. When needed, he will investigate a case if the situation is more than what the patrol officers can handle.
“The installation is like a small city,” Foronda said, pointing out its only main street, the housing areas (or quarters) and businesses such as the post exchange.
In addition to serving as one of the law enforcement officers, he also administers the new physical fitness test to the soldiers as the unit’s master fitness trainer. So far, Foronda said he’s pleased with the pass rate of the fitness test.
“We have a 100% pass rate when the test took effect on Oct. 1, 2022,” he boasted with a grin.
Foronda said he hasn’t completed his courses at the University of Nevada, Reno for his degrees in engineering and kinesiology. He’s also pondered law enforcement.
The Nevada guardsman enlisted in June 2013 and recently re-enlisted for six more years. His plan is to serve at least 20 years.
“I’ll take each day as it comes,” Foronda said.
Although his work at MK Air Base has consumed his time, Foronda said he’s seen parts of Romania including Transylvania where Dracula’s castle is located.
Being on patrol at MK Air Base has given Spec. Erik Clifton another perspective of law enforcement.
A 2015 Reno High School graduate, Clifton works as a jailer for the Washoe County Sheriff’s Department, but his experience back home has been void of patrolling. He said his employer, however, has been very supportive of his deployment to Eastern Europe.
Clifton enlisted in the Nevada Army National Guard more than five years ago and completed his basic and advanced training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
“I’ve put in my packet for Officer Candidate School,” Clifton added. “I like the Guard because it’s been a very good experience.”
Like his fellow soldiers deployed to Romania, Clifton has had to adjust to changing requirements. After the Nevada unit arrived at MK Air Base last summer, the population of both the Army garrison and the air base, which is controlled by the Romanian Air Force, quadrupled to about 4,000 soldiers, airmen and civilians.
“We’ve become acclimated of our surroundings,” Clifton quickly added.
Clifton, though, attributes the unit’s successful deployment to both the detachment’s leadership and his fellow soldiers.
“I think our leadership is doing a good job,” Clifton said. “They have done an incredible job to empower us to make decisions.”
Since the MPs arrived in Romania, Clifton said he’s been to Bucharest and Dracula country on the other side of the country. Occasionally, he said the soldiers have also driven to Constanta, one of Romania’s largest cities that borders the Black Sea, for dinner.
Sgt. 1st Class Kristopher Maccario is a full-time readiness and training noncommission officer (NCO) who has spent 15 years in the Nevada Army National Guard. Mccarrio first drilled with the 485th Military Police Co., after the unit moved from Fallon to Reno. His first deployment took him to Parwan Province in Afghanistan in 2011-2012 where the major base was Bagram Air Field. Maccario, though, was assigned to the Parwan Detention Facility, Afghanistan’s largest military prison.
According to Maccario, many of the soldiers who were on the Afghanistan deployment “have moved on.” He thinks about 10 soldiers from the 485th MP Company, though, are still in the Nevada Guard.
During his deployment to Romania, Maccario has been able to see how policies are enforced. While with the 485th at Parwan, he said the goals and policy were set. At MK Air Base, Maccario said the MPs must be adaptable so their goals tend to change.
“This is a very different deployment,” he explained. “We patrol a small town, and we have so many international forces.”
Like others in the unit, Maccario traveled to Dracula’s or Bran’s Castle in Transylvania when they had some leave.
Staff Sgt. Joseph Novelli is facing changes in his life after he returns to Reno.
The former Carson City resident and his wife moved to Pebble Beach near Carmel, California, last year to be closer to her family; as a result, Novelli’s future looks different. Novelli, whose been in the Nevada Guard for eight years, said he would like to stay in the military for 20 years.
“I’m coming off active duty, and I’m unemployed,” he said, referring to the impending end of the deployment.
Novelli’s wife works at Pebble Beach, and they’re staying in a guest house on his father-in-law’s property.
“She’s doing well there,” he said.
Once Novelli settles in at his new home, the military policeman said he will eventually apply with the Monterey County Sheriff’s Department. Novelli said his experience in Romania should be beneficial in his new job search.
“I’m a squad leader in second platoon,” he said, adding he’s thankful not being confined continuously behind a desk.
Novelli’s supervisor is the desk sergeant, but if she needs help, he can be there. Novelli said he likes what he’s doing in law enforcement, but it’s an ever-changing world.
“We work well like this,” he added. “You can never predict what will happen.”
Being deployed in a remote area of Romania has given Novelli a different perspective in dealing with others. Although there may be a bigger purpose on the NATO installation, he said many soldiers and airmen are at MK Air Base for a specific reason.
“We’re all here for a purpose … a team,” Novelli said.
As a patrolman, Novelli claims it’s easier to talk to someone he’s stopped. His philosophy is to bring them to the same level so they can talk. He said that’s a big advantage of being deployed at MK Air Base.
Novelli deployed in 2016-2017 to Southwest Asia, but he said the mission there has helped with the current stay in Romania. He said it’s important to bring those life experiences from six years ago to those he either supervises or protects.
“It’s easier to de-escalate situations,” he said of his law enforcement work at the air base. “I’m here to make sure people are safe and at the end of the day, they’re doing everything right.”