Thracian Fall 19 wraps up in Bulgaria

A group of Bulgarian paratroopers descend into Cheshnegirovo drop zone after performing a static-line jump in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Oct. 2. During Thracian Fall, the 37th Airlift Squadron provided primary airlift support to a U.S. sponsored military free-fall course for Bulgaria’s 68th Special Forces Brigade, resulting in a total of 121 personnel drops.

Story and photos by
Staff Sgt. Kirsten Brandes
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

PLOVDIV, Bulgaria — Three C-130J Super Hercules aircraft and more than 90 personnel deployed to Plovdiv, Bulgaria, from Ramstein Air Base for Thracian Fall returned home Oct. 4.

Tech. Sgt. Jason Burnham, a C-130J Super Hercules loadmaster assigned to the 37th Airlift Squadron, looks out over Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Sept. 30. During Thracian Fall 19, five loadmasters were qualified to perform wet-wing defuel operations.


During the 12-day flying training deployment, the 37th Airlift Squadron flew 42 sorties and conducted 121 personnel drops for Bulgaria’s 68th Special Forces Brigade. Aircrew executed 19 low-cost, low-altitude airdrops, upgrading five pilots on the LCLA capability, and dropped 36.3 tons of heavy equipment.

A C-130J Super Hercules assigned to the 37th Airlift Squadron flies a low-level route through a mountainous region of Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Oct. 2. Flying training deployments like Thracian Fall provide opportunities for training that is often unavailable at home station.

In total, the 37th AS and participating units were able to accomplish over 1,200 training events.

U.S. Air Force Capt. Korie Roberts, Thracian Fall 19 mission commander, contributes the success of the exercise to the efforts and professionalism of the Airmen around her.


Senior Airman Christopher Carmody and Staff Sgt. Jordon Speedy, loadmasters assigned to the 37th Airlift Squadron, perform a combat offload qualification at Cheshnegirovo drop zone over Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Oct. 1. During Thracian Fall 19, the 37th AS and participating units completed more than 1,200 training events in two weeks.

“I’m surrounded by 90 people who are experts at getting the job done,” Roberts said. “From the guys controlling the landing zone, to aerial delivery loading the aircraft, to maintenance keeping our planes flying… this would not have been possible without all of their hard work. They make my job easier.”

Bulgarian Brig. Gen. Yavor Mateev, commander of the 68th Special Forces Brigade, highlighted the importance of partnership building exercises like Thracian Fall.


A team of loadmasters from the 37th Airlift Squadron and personnel from the 435th Contingency Response Squadron conduct a wet-wing defuel exercise using a C-130J Super Hercules and a R-11 fuel truck at Graf Ignatievo Air Base in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Sept. 25. During Thracian Fall 19, five loadmasters and five pilots qualified on the wet-wing fuel capability, allowing them to offload excess fuel while keeping all four engines running.

“We always make sure that during these two weeks we give the opportunity to our friends from the United States to see something from Bulgaria,” Mateev said. “To see something from our culture, from our history, to sit and celebrate together… it’s very important — not only for the success of the training, but for the camaraderie and friendship we have.”