EUCOM members assist U.S., NATO, Russia water ops talks

Members of the NATO military community and international staff, along with service members from U.S. European Command, met with their Russian counterparts in Prague for a NATO-Russia Council Water Handling Workshop Oct 25-28.

“We’re making history here,” said Navy Capt. Gregory Zielinski, chief of EUCOM’s engineering division. “This meeting was all about interoperability and building cooperation with NATO and Russia. The purpose was to engage with our Russian partners and share knowledge in the area of water handling.”

Co-chairing the meeting was Navy Rear Adm. Andy Brown, director of EUCOM’s logistics division, or ECJ4. The Russians also sent a top leader: a major general from their army engineers.

“This shows they are committed and serious about this,” said Army Lt. Col. James Sears, EUCOM logistician.

“The water piece is relatively new, and we’re still in the planning and sharing phases,” Sears added. “We … discussed the various equipment and procedures used in water collection and purifying operations. In the future, I see NATO and Russia ready to be called up to help provide clean water in response to a humanitarian or environmental crisis almost anywhere.”

Sears said the countries will share NATO’s Standardization Agreement, which sets up processes, terms and conditions for common military or technical procedures or equipment between NATO member countries.

“We and our NATO and Russia partners stand ready to seamlessly provide water assistance in a crisis,” he said.

Zielinski said this partnership is set to expand into conducting other operations in the future and even a large scale water and fuel exercise in 2013.

“The ultimate goal of all of this will be demonstrated in the upcoming Capable Logistician 2013 exercise,” said Zielinski. “The exercise is a combined, joint, multinational water and fuel handling effort with the U.S., NATO and Russia.”

Zielinski compared coming into the Navy during the Cold War at a time when Russia had a more aggressive military approach to the U.S. and NATO, to the peaceful cooperation happening now.

“I feel personally and professionally gratified to be a part of this,” he said.