WASHINGTON More than 350 American soldiers and 80 US Army vehicles — most of them Strykers will begin a 400 kilometer "cavalry march" across Romania, with cover from US Air Force, this week, to kick off multinational exercises in Romania, the Pentagon announced Tuesday.

The Canadian, UK, US and Romanian exercises will also involve A-10 Thunderbolt II's from the 354th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, which will demonstrate close-air-support by conducting multiple close passes above the convoy. The squadron belongs to the 355th Fighter Wing at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona.

"This cav march represents the joint-Romanian effort to honor the past and build the future and demonstrate NATO interoperability," said Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren.

Troops with the 2nd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, will march from Mikhail Kogalniceanu Air Base to the Romanian Land Forces Combat Training Center in Cincu.

"The purpose of this mission is simply reassurance to our NATO Aallies, especially Romania," the squadron's commander, Lt. Col. Theodore Johnson, said in a news release. "This will also be a combined effort to show interoperability and we will defer to the Romanian armed forces on all coordination and emerging issues."

The event, though focused on the transportation of troopers and their vehicles, will also include stops in local townships, allowing for the soldiers to interact with the public.

"This event will demonstrate our strong relationship with Romania and our ability to move freely along interior lines across the NATO alliance," Johnson said.

Last month, the US Army's 1,900-kilometer, "Dragoon Ride" saw 3rd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, and their Strykers roll through six countries and back to its home station in Vilseck, Germany.

As a deterrence to Russian aggression, US officials announced plans earlier this year to expand its yearlong series of exercises, called Operation Atlantic Resolve, to include Estonia, Romania, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Russia's southern neighbor, Georgia.

Soldiers with 2nd Squadron, in mid April, participated in Exercise Wind Spring in mid-April with Romanian and British soldiers at Smardan Training Area, Romania.

E-mail: jgould@defensenews.com

Twitter: @reporterjoe

Joe Gould was the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He had previously served as Congress reporter.

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