Thracian Fall 2019 exercise kicks off in Bulgaria


A Bulgarian jumper performs a static-line jump from a U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules aircraft over Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Sept. 24. The military free-fall course is a central focus of Thracian Fall 2019.

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

PLOVDIV, Bulgaria — Airmen and aircraft from the 37th Airlift Squadron arrived at Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Sept. 23, to kick off exercise Thracian Fall 2019.
Thracian Fall is a recurring flying training deployment conducted between the U.S. Air Force and the Bulgarian air force, and is meant to develop and maintain interoperability with Bulgarian partner forces.

Two U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules aircraft, assigned to the 37th Airlift Squadron, sit on the ramp prior to a flight at Plovdiv Airport in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Sept. 24. Airmen and aircraft from the 37th AS arrived in Bulgaria on Sept. 23, to kick off exercise Thracian Fall 2019.

This iteration is set to include a military free-fall course, including both static-line and high altitude, low opening (HALO) jumps. The 37th AS will be providing primary airlift support for Bulgarian special forces personnel completing the course. Plovdiv’s location in Bulgaria also provides the opportunity to conduct low-level flights through mountainous terrain — training that is unavailable to the 37th AS at their home station.
U.S. Air Force Capt. Korie Roberts, mission commander for Thracian Fall 2019, said this year will include many Bulgarian and U.S. aircraft engagements.


U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Robert Hutton, a loadmaster assigned to the 37th Airlift Squadron, waits on the ramp of a C-130J Super Hercules for the next load of jumpers in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Sept. 24. The military free-fall course is a central focus of Thracian Fall 2019.

“We’ll be interflying with Bulgarian C-27s, and this year we’ll also be doing MiG 29 fighter engagements as well,” said Roberts. “It’s great training for the 37th AS, and an awesome opportunity to interoperate with the Bulgarian air force.”
Other units participating in Thracian Fall 2019 include the 86th Maintenance Squadron, the 435th Contingency Response Group, the 700th Contracting Squadron, the 86th Logistics Readiness Squadron, and the 5th Quartermaster Theater Aerial Delivery Company.
Each unit has a hand in building partnerships and enhancing interoperability with the Bulgarian air force.
Capt. Roberts emphasized that building that relationship is the key to success at Thracian Fall.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Melissa Pickering, an aircraft parts store journeyman assigned to the 86th Logistics Readiness Squadron, conducts an inventory of consumable maintenance supplies at Plovdiv Airport in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Sept. 24. Airmen from the 86th LRS ensure that supplies are tracked and transported correctly during Thracian Fall 2019.

“Despite the language barrier, they’ve been incredibly helpful and accommodating,” said Roberts. “Even when we’ve had last-minute requests, they’ve bent over backward to help us. I’m really looking forward to the rest of the exercise.”