Bucharest, December 29, 2014/ Independent Balkan News Agency
By Daniel Stroe
Newly installed Romanian President Klaus Iohannis (sworn in on December 22) has today appointed Lieutenant-General Nicolae-Ionel Ciuca (photo) as head of Romanian Army’s Chief of General Staff, replacing, starting January 1, Air Force General Stefan Danila, who has led the Romanian military since 2011.
Ciuca (47), a three star general, has so far been chief commander of the Romanian Ground Troops and between 2001 and 2004 he led the 26 Infantry Battalion, aka Red Scorpions, which participated in the missions Enduring Freedom I in Afghanistan and Ancient Babylon in Iraq. Nicolae-Ionel Ciuca is the only serving Romanian general who has personally led a combat mission, namely the fight for a bridge over Euphrates River in Iraq, on 14-15 May 2004, going up in the ranks on the battlefield.
The battle of Nassiria, in May 2004, was the first armed fight Romanian troops were involved in after the Second World War. Ciuca led the troops in that battle.
He has also filled the position of deputy chief commander of the Romanian Army’s General Staff, Stefan Danila. Danila was appointed in 2011 by former President Traian Basescu. The chief commander serves for a period of four years, with one year extension of the office possible. He is recruited from the high ranking officers filling the positions of deputy chief commander of the General Staff or commanders of one of the army branches at the proposal of the Defense Minister, validated by the Prime-Minister and appointed by the President.
As chief commander of the General Staff, Ciuca will represent Romania in NATO’s Military Committee and, respectively, EU’s Military Committee.
Romania has contributed to the just wrapped up International Security and Assistance Force in Afghanistan with 1,800 troops at the height of the combat mission. A number of 23 Romanian troops have lost their lives since 2001 on the Afghan front. Two Romanian soldiers were killed in the Iraqi missions. About 650 Romanian troops will still be stationed in Afghanistan, as part of the remaining mission designed to instruct the Afghan Army. Romania will also participate in a mission to defend Kandahar’s airport.
Ciuca’s appointment comes as the US military prepares to next year inaugurate an anti-missile base in SW Romania, at Deveselu Air Base, which will play a central role in NATO-led anti-missile shield in Europe. The site at Deveselu, part of the second phase of the adaptive approach of the missile shield in Europe, will host an Aegis SPY-1 radar and hold 24 Standard Missile-3 interceptors of the Block IB variant. The defensive system has turned Romania into a strategic pivot for both USA and NATO and, along the military base at Mihail Kogalniceanu, where about 1.500 US troops are expected to be deployed, will confer Bucharest new security guarantees amid tensions on its Eastern borders.