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Experienced leadership provides steady hand

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MP Detachment serves as a small city police department

MIHAIL KOGĂLNICEANU, Romania  — Since the 137th Military Police, Det.,  arrived in Eastern Europe during the summer of 2022, the supervising commands have given the Nevada unit high marks to its leadership team.

In a military career that has spanned for almost two decades, Capt. Bryan Hernandez has served four deployments including the latest one to a major NATO air base in Eastern Europe.

The 37-year-old Fernley resident, who is the company command of the Carson City based 137th Military Police, Det.,  and also works full-time for the Nevada Army National Guard, is the provost marshal of the Army garrison side of Mihail Kogălniceanu Air Base northeast of Constanta, Romania. As the provost, Hernandez commands a small city police department to ensure both military and civilian personnel remain safe.

The MP detachment, though, is beginning to wrap up its deployment to Romania.

This is Hernandez’s second deployment as a military officer. His first was as the executive officer who worked both customs and law enforcement in Kuwait. The mission at MK Air Base, though, presented Hernandez and the 40-member MP company with a major challenge soon after their arrival in Romania.

“A combat division arrived several weeks after we got here,” Hernandez explained. “It expanded the base size by four times.”

Suddenly, MK Air Base stretched from about 800 residents to almost 4,000 and according to the Black Sea Command, plans call for the installation to add more personnel and equipment. 

“Once I was able to get it into perspective, it’s one you would expect for this type of environment with the exception of a few key changes,” Hernandez added.

The Nevada Guard military police perform both patrol and investigative work on the base that has its own fire department, recreational facilities, housing, a small post exchange, dining facility, medical facility and engineers.  

The MPs, though, aren’t responsible for the physical security of the airbase side that houses the jets, helicopters and other fixed-wing aircraft. A Romanian Air Force colonel oversees that operation.

If the MK Air Base wasn’t enough of a challenge, Hernandez is also responsible for substation at a small base in Bulgaria, a long five-hour drive or a 30-45 minute helicopter ride from Mihail Kogălniceanu. Hernandez said he visits the outpost at least once a month, sometimes twice depending on the situation.

Fewer than a dozen soldiers rotate into Bulgaria at a given time. Because of the command environment, base expansion and the war between Ukraine and Russia to the east, Hernandez said the unit must be flexible and respond to any mission in addition to law enforcement.

“These tasks have included things such as escorting VIPs, providing additional security for special events, supporting gate/ECP operations, completing random anti-terrorism measures, and providing manning for the base defense operations center to name a few,” he said.

The MPs also investigate crime and work with CID (Criminal Investigation Division) agents on specific cases. Soldiers from Fort Carson, Colo., also share the building on the west side of the base and conduct patrols.

Nevada Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Ondra Berry, and seven other Nevada National Guard officers and the state’s command sergeant major, visited the military police unit in late January. Garrison Commander Lt. Col. Brian Fiddermon of the Army Support Activity Black Sea since August ,and Berry have commended the detachment for their exceptional law enforcement work. Berry and his contingent met with the MPs in an hour meeting on the first full day he arrived.

“They are working on a continuity plan … overall, they are looking at the overall safety and security of the installation,” Berry pointed out. “This has been value-added being with the Romanians.”

Furthermore, Berry praised Hernandez and the garrison command for being adaptable and flexible toward their mission and problem solving in dealing with a large volume of personnel.

“This is a very professional partnership,” said Brig. Gen. Troy Armstrong, Land Component commander. “They seem like they are aware of the situations.”

The MP detachment will return to Reno sometime during the spring, and after the arrival and the soldiers returning to their normal duties in a month, Hernandez said he has no idea what’s facing him. He has submitted his personnel packet in the first year of eligibility for promotion to major, the next important milestone in his career.

“I’ll do what the Guard wants me to do,” Hernandez said. “I don’t know what the changes will be.” 

The ride for Hernandez has been sweet for more than 18 years in the Army. He first enlisted in the active Army and later joined the Washington Army National Guard. Eventually, he transferred to the Nevada Guard. During his time in the Silver State, he attended officer candidate school.

“I don’t plan to leave the Nevada Guard until I retire,” he said.

A challenging deployment

During their time together in the military police detachment, Hernandez has relied on his right-hand man, Sgt.1st Class Daniel Rogers of Reno. Rogers has deployed twice before the mission  to Romania, once to Afghanistan and the other to Kuwait and each with its own challenges.

“You grow in this organization,” Rogers said. “In Afghanistan, I was a sergeant, and we had little communication back home. In Kuwait, we were involved in customs with a much larger team and larger scope (in their mission). 

As a sergeant, Rogers served with the 485th Military Police Co., which was formerly stationed in Reno before the unit retired their colors. The 485th had originally stood up in Fallon in 2007 before relocating to Reno two years later.

Rogers, though, has found the 137th’s deployment to Romania to be his most challenging assignment.

“Here, it’s the hardest one so far for me in terms of actual challenges,” he said.

Despite the challenges, the soldiers have been able to leave base, and Rogers said there’s been more to see. Yet, Rogers returns to that sense of serving.

“I’m in charge of not only the entire well-being of all the soldiers but also in a sense the overall discipline of the entire base,” he added.

Romania has given Rogers a different world view especially with the fighting to the east between Ukraine and Russia. He tries not to worry, but Rogers said the soldiers still need to be prepared.

“I haven’t given too much thought of being on the door step,” Rogers said of the situation in Ukraine. 

Overall, Rogers said the Esprit ‘d corps in the company has been good.

“We have a phenomenal unit, what I refer to as a free-thinking, problem-solving, and they care for one another,” Rogers said.

According to the first sergeant, the soldiers are good at what they do, and their experience of working together shows. He would like to think everyone in the unit is in Romania for a reason. Since the Nevada Guard arrived at the base, Rogers said the soldiers are accomplishing many of their goals.

When Rogers returns home, he’ll report back to the training section in Carson City where he worked before deployment. His supervisor, Lt. Col.  Curt Kolvet, was also part of the Nevada Guard group that visited the unit in January.

A voice of reason

The detachment’s operations sergeant brings 21 years of law enforcement experience to the unit and 16 years to the military. Staff Sgt. Thomas Urso has been a Nevada State Trooper based in Fallon for three years.

“I like to think I’m a voice of reason,” Urso said because of his police background. “I weigh in when it’s important. I’ll do some coaching and mentoring and also suggest a better route to do it this way and why.”

Between the National Guard and Nevada State Police, Urso brings a wealth of background to the detachment. For Urso, the deployment to Mihail Kogălniceanu is his third. His first deployment occurred more than seven years ago when his unit worked alongside other multinational units in the Sinai Peninsula. Urso, though, spent most of his time assigned to the U.S embassy at Tel Aviv, Israel. At least half — if not more — of his time in 2015-2016 was spent on the road driving toward the Egyptian border to exchange mail with another driver who would transport the mail back to the soldiers in the Sinai. 

“It was a dangerous route to drive through,” Urso recalled of the Sinai route. “They wouldn’t come up unless they were in an armored vehicle.”

Urso had a short break until he was deployed again in 2016-2017 to Kuwait with the 485th Military Police Co. where he was involved with customs and border security. He said the work was tedious to inspect equipment and ensure it was clean.

During the deployment to Romania, Urso is the operations sergeant for unit projects and special assignments. He additionally trains the MPs to ensure they’re ready for their shifts and also provides training and law enforcement tactics.

 “We’re in a NATO country and seeing how the doctrine works,” Urso said. “We’re also seeing how the deployment has intensified. We’re focused on keeping us safe on the installation.”

Urso grew up in the San Diego area and after graduating from high school, his parents decided to leave California and move to Carson City. He attended college in Wichita, Kansas, where he also played baseball.

His life took a departure after his time in Kansas. Urso enlisted in the Army and after basic and advanced training, he found himself assigned for three years to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson near Anchorage, Alaska.

“That’s God’s country,” Urso said with a laugh, citing how a woman told him that. “It was beautiful.”

Urso’s final assignment sent him from the 49th state to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. After leaving the active Army, he returned to Nevada where he joined the National Guard and was accepted into the Nevada State Police. 

Before transferring to Fallon, Urso and his wife, Kimberly, lived in Dayton, where he was a trooper in the Carson City area. They bought more than 30 acres of land south of Fallon on Lone Tree Road before relocating to Churchill County, and Kimberly is the owner of Yellow Petal Flower Farm. 

Steve Ranson
Steve Ranson
Steve Ranson is Editor Emeritus of the Lahontan Valley News.

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