CONSTANTA, Romania — Combat engineers with Black Sea Rotational Force 11 have been in the Black Sea region since April providing community relations projects that help small towns and villages throughout the region.
Now, their biggest impression can be seen at the local Constanta County Hospital and Trauma center, where they worked with local contractors to excavate and build a brand-new helipad which will allow air-transport of critically-wounded casualties to the hospital and potentially save lives.
“I don’t think you’ll find a bigger impact anywhere,” said Capt. Charles A. Nassar, combat engineer officer-in-charge, BSRF-11.
“This is a ‘win-win’ for everybody because this helipad will serve not only the people in the county but future iterations of BSRF.”
The project was a team effort between the Marines, the hospital directors and local businesses.
“We [worked] with a local contractor that understood the dynamics and importance of completing [this],” said Nassar.
“We wanted to make sure we brought the host nation into the project and give them some investment and relied on the local economy by utilizing local supplies, equipment and vendors,” added the Sterling Heights, Mich., native.
The hospital serves the largest port-city on the Black Sea and the most populated metropolitan area in the region. The hospital’s trauma center is the only one in the area; the next closest one is in the capital city of Bucharest, approximately 240 kilometers away.
“To put it in perspective; you’re looking at a metropolitan area of almost 450,000 people that this helipad directly impacts,” said Nassar.
The helipad features a 75-by-6-foot-wide concrete ramp that leads up to the 50-by-50-foot landing zone that is reinforced with steel bars and 70 cubic-yards of concrete. The helipad can support anything up to 20,000 pounds.
“At first, [the hospital directors] were hesitant about the project because they’ve been promised a helipad in the past,” said Sgt. Matthew J. Houle, the combat engineering non-commissioned officer-in-charge, BSRF-11.
“The project had been planned before but didn’t get finished but it feels good to see it actually completed.”
“This was a lot more in-depth than the community relations projects we did before,” said Houle, “and it’s like the previous projects were practice leading up to this to showcase everyone’s skills and what we learned this deployment.”
In the past, medical and military helicopters had to land the casualty in a nearby soccer field to then be transported 2.5 kilometers by vehicle to the hospital, dealing with traffic and increasing the time it took to get the patients the urgent medical attention they needed.
“We are grateful that Marines have helped us build this helipad,” said Dr. Dan Capatina, the hospital’s general director.
“Constanta County is the major hospital in the area,” said Capatina, “covering about six major towns. It’s important [for us] to be able to cover all the necessities as far as being able to transport patients from the [location of] the incident in a timely manner and give them proper medical care.”
The combat engineering team has traveled throughout Romania, Bulgaria and the Republic of Georgia doing a variety of projects including the renovation of schools, concrete work, building fences, and creating sidewalks that all left positive impacts on the small communities they visited.
The recently-finished helipad marks the last effort the 10 combat engineer Marines will complete for the rotation.
“We had a little crew doing a lot of big things and it’s nice to see this as the grand finale,” said Houle, a native of Wakefield, Mass.
“They’re going to have to do something intense next year because we had a lot of good projects that helped a lot of people this rotation.”
BSRF-11 has been operating in the Black Sea, Balkan and Caucasus regions since April and is slated to return to the states in the following month.
Black Sea Rotational Force is a rotational deployment of Marines to these regions of Eastern Europe to participate in security cooperation to build military capacity, provide regional stability, and develop lasting partnerships with nations in the region.
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