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Program benefits American, Bulgarian maintainers

by Tech. Sgt. J. LaVoie
323rd Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

4/7/2008 - GRAF IGNATIEVO AIR BASE, Bulgaria (AFPN) -- American and Bulgarian Airmen received familiarization briefings on F-15 Eagles and MiG-29 aircraft in an effort to increase theater security cooperation in April here.

F-15s are deployed to Bulgaria for Operation Noble Endeavor supporting the NATO summit, and it presented maintainers from the two countries an opportunity to take part in the NATO program to familiarize airmen from member nations with cross-servicing on different aircraft.

After two-days of classroom discussion, the Bulgarian crew chiefs were given the opportunity to get some hands-on familiarization with the F-15.

"I can give them all the classroom instruction I want, but diagrams only go so far," said Master Sgt. Darrell Wiedenbeck, the U.S. Air Forces in Europe A-10 Thunderbolt II functional manager. "The hands-on is more beneficial to the program."

The briefings were truly a familiarization, as many of the Bulgarians had years of aircraft experience.

"I was really impressed with how much they know about the jet," said Staff Sgt. Robert Jackson, an F-15 crew chief who gave the hands-on familiarization briefing.

Sergeant Wiedenbeck said that for many of them, this is just explaining the differences.

"They have a very good understanding of aircraft, so we are just showing them our procedures. An actuator is an actuator. The bits and pieces of an aircraft are the same. The only difference is an actuator on an A-10 is in one place and on an F-15 another," Sergeant Widenbeck said.

This training allows the two militaries to work together better during NATO operations.

"The familiarization allows Bulgaria to better support us, and allows us to better support Bulgaria," Sergeant Jackson said. "If we send a jet somewhere and it diverts, now they are familiar with our operations and could assist with the aircraft."

The familiarization helps future NATO operations.

"The way you service your aircraft is not the way we service our aircraft," said Bulgarian air force Master Sgt. Vladimir Kolev, a MiG 29-crew chief. "We can use the methodology we learn to service our aircraft as well."

Sergeants Jackson and Wiedenbeck also had the opportunity to learn about the MiG-29.

"It made me grateful for what we have in the U.S. Air Force," Sergeant Jackson said. "We have a really expensive piece of equipment that we hook up to a few probes that will perform the same test they just did with an air hose."

The training proved to be a chance for all to work with airmen from another nation.

"Since we are NATO members, we take every opportunity to work with other nations," said Bulgarian air force Warrent Officer Nikolay Genovski, a MiG-29 crew chief. "It is good to cross train. When we work together, it is better if we have basic knowledge of each other's operations."

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