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Exercise enhances training, partnerships for U.S., Bulgarian military

by Master Sgt. Quinton T. Burris
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

4/27/2010 - PLOVDIV, Bulgaria (AFNS) -- Airmen, Soldiers and Sailors teamed with Bulgarian armed forces members to conduct Exercise Thracian Spring 2010 April 22 thorugh 28 here.

Eighty-one Airmen from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, joined Soldiers from the 5th Quartermaster Company at Rhine Ordnance Barracks, Germany and Sailors from the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 8 from Sigonella, Italy, arrived in Plovdiv for the fourth annual exercise.

The bilateral training exercise brings U.S. and Bulgarian military forces together to build upon and strengthen the bonds currently shared between the two countries while continuing to improve interoperability as Bulgaria continues to progress as a new partner nation in NATO.

"We are here to build partnerships while working with our Bulgarian counterparts as we exchange airlift and airdrop tactics and ideas," said Lt. Col Matthew Wehner, the 37th AS deployed commander. "Our trip here is vital to everyone involved. We are able to assist the Bulgarians with training and maintaining their jump requirements during the day and complete our nighttime training requirements during the night, a task which is difficult to complete in Germany due to the reduced hours of darkness."

In a matter of four days, 37th AS crews and 435th Security Forces Squadron jumpmasters, with assistance from Army jumpmasters, completed nine sorties, trained 360 Bulgarian paratroopers on the proper way to jump from a C-130 Hercules aircraft and completed 513 static line and freefall jumps.

"I really enjoy working with the Bulgarians," said Maj. John Grimm, the 435th SFS commander. "They are very professional. The opportunity to train with our NATO partners allows (the Bulgarians) the chance to understand how we operate, while we learn how they operate. All of which will pay huge dividends in the long run as we continue build upon on interoperability for possible future joint operations."

The training provided here is not only vitally important to success downrange, it's also a "good time," said Bulgarian Army Lt. Col. Petko Petkov, the 68th Special Forces chief of Combat Training who recently returned from a tour with U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

"I enjoy any opportunity I have to work with U.S. forces," he said. "It is always a pleasure; no matter the location."



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