U.S. forces fired two M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems at targets during Exercise Rapid Falcon last week from Romania into the Black Sea — marking the first time U.S. troops had done so with Romanian counterparts.

According to the service, troops from the Army’s 1st Battalion, 77th Field Artillery Regiment, 41st Field Artillery Brigade deployed the HIMARS systems using an MC-130J Commando II with the U.S. Air Force’s 352nd Special Operations Wing and a C-130 Hercules with U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Africa.

Two launcher crews of six personnel departed Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Nov. 19 for Romania to complete the exercise before returning to Germany immediately afterwards.

“Today we performed a HIRAIN, which is a HIMARS Rapid Infiltration,” Capt. Justin Bland, Alpha Battery Commander, 1-77 FAR, said in a recent Army news release. “This allows us to load up into a C-17, C-130, or a C-5 and go anywhere in the world and provide these timely fires.”

The exercise also involved the Romania-based element of 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, and Romanian Land Forces from the 8th LAROM Brigade and the 9th Infantry Brigade, the Army said.

“Readiness is our number one priority, so coming out here and conducting a joint operation enables us to make sure that we are in sync with our NATO counterparts,” Sgt. Maj. Samuel H. Zoker, command sergeant major with the 41st FAB, said in an Army news release.

Even without factoring in the COVID-19 pandemic, the mission is complicated and involved months of planning between U.S. and Romanian forces, the Army said. In order to safeguard against the virus though, both U.S. and Romanian troops wore masks, practiced religious hand-washing and exercised social distancing as they were able to during the exercise.

“It’s the same practices that we do at home and the same practices we do out here on deployment,” Bland said. “That was on both sides, with the Romanians and the Americans, it was safe all the way around.”

“American and Romanian Soldiers proved today they can come together, fight COVID at the same time, but still address the need for deterrence and defense in the Black Sea region. We can cope with COVID, but it will never minimize our main task and our main mission to stay together, train together, and when needed, fight together,” Maj. General Lulian Berdila, Romania’s chief of land forces, said in a news release.

The exercise is the second live-fire training event outside of Germany and the first within Romania for the unit, following its reactivation in August.

The HIMARS system has a range of 300 kilometers. Romania is set to obtain the system as well and is scheduled for it to be fully operational by 2022.

“We are honored to work alongside our allies in Romania as one team in support of NATO’s larger mission,” said Col. Daniel Miller, the 41st Field Artillery Brigade commander. “Rapid Falcon is a great joint exercise that demonstrates our ability to rapidly deploy our Soldiers and long-range precision fires capabilities at a moment’s notice anywhere in the European theater.”

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