Ramstein Airmen build relations with Bulgarian military

Story and photo by Staff Sgt. Nesha Humes 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Bulgarian paratroopers wait to load two Super Hercules C-130Js and an Alenia C-27J Spartan during Exercise Thracian Spring 17 March 15 over Plovdiv Regional Airport, Bulgaria. The 37th Airlift Squardon air crew and 435th Contingency Response Group jump masters from Ramstein worked directly with the paratroopers to conduct tactical flight training. The two-week combined training with Bulgaria’s military aims to facilitate overall relations and build their nations’ joint military capabilities.

PLOVDIV, Bulgaria Trust is an essential element in building any team; similar to one gear efficiently turning in a large machine, it greatly affects the speed, torque and direction of its power source.

Therefore, building up a team’s trust is critical in completing a mission proficiently and safely.

During Exercise Thracian Spring 17, Ramstein Airmen and Bulgaria’s military set out to do just this in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, March 14 to 23.

Airmen from the 86th Airlift Wing, 37th Airlift Squadron and 435th Contingency Response Group partnered with their NATO ally on multiple operations during the two-week training to hone operational and tactical skills while improving our interoperability.

Col. Yordan Yordanov, Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Bulgaria, deputy director of joint facilities and coordination directorate said he’s been working with the U.S. on combined exercises since 2010 and is happy to work with U.S. Air Force.

“We are looking forward to sharing techniques, tactics and procedures and enhancing our interoperability,” Yordanov said. “I hope this exercise becomes more successful, not only for Bulgaria’s armed forces but also the U.S. Air Force.”

More than 60 Airmen help oversee two Super Hercules C-130Js on the ground and in the air while approximately 100 Bulgarian paratroopers practice their jumps 1,250 feet above.

Between the multiple operations on the flightline, drop zone and on the aircraft, there are many opportunities to share knowledge and build trust with Bulgaria’s armed forces.

Capt. Mary Bordelon, 37 AS flight commander and Exercise Thracian Spring 17 mission commander said the U.S. and Bulgarian military both have exercise directors, aircrew, paratroopers and drop zone controllers working together in addition to the Bulgarians assisting with aerial port duties.

“There’s a lot of training that goes on for both sides of us.” Bordelon said. “We brief and debrief together every day. An Alenia C-27J Spartan is also doing in-flight dissimilar formations with the C-130Js Super Hercules. This ensures our strong military alliance that we can train together and fight together.”

In all, the diverse mission is truly a team effort.

The bilateral exercise is a direct reflection of the Signed Defense Cooperation Agreement, signed between Bulgaria and the U.S. in May 2006. The agreement gives the U.S. military access to enable combined training with the Bulgarian military.

Successful partnering activities result in progressive relationships and leads to tangible, mutual benefits during peacetime, contingencies and crises.

Yordanov said Thracian Spring 17 is a good example of the agreement and our shared capabilities, facilities and resources.

The 37 AS has deployed with the Bulgarian military more than 10 times.

With each deployment, the allies continue to facilitate combined training in aim to strengthen relations while building the speed, torque, and direction of both nations’ airpower.