Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Thracian Fall exercise kicks off in Bulgaria

by Staff Sgt. Travis Edwards, 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

PLOVDIV, Bulgaria (AFNS) -- Service members from the Air Force, Army, Navy and Bulgarian air force are participating in a two-week jump exercise here from Oct. 9 through 22.

Operation Thracian Fall 2011 is part of a semi-annual, off-station training that gives U.S. and coalition jumpers and pilots an opportunity to hone their battlefield skills together.

"We are here to further the U.S., Bulgaria ties through cooperative training with Bulgarian forces," said Capt. Beau Tresemer, the mission commander for Thracian Fall 2011. "It's a great opportunity to see how other countries train and prepare to fight."

C-130J Super Hercules from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, along with Bulgarian C-27 Spartans will continue to drop more than 100 coalition service members near a designated drop zone the rest of this week, he said. A plus to the training is the added benefit of working alongside Bulgarian service members, giving them a broad spectrum look at how the Air Force prepares for contingencies.

"Our pilots are accomplishing day and night flying with simulated combat drops in unfamiliar mountainous terrain," said Tresemer. "At the same time. we are helping Bulgarians get their personnel airdrop qualifications."

"The Bulgarian airspace allows us the training we can't get in Germany," he said. "There are less restrictions on altitudes. Here, we are allowed to fly as low as what our regulations say we can."

However, training isn't the only thing getting accomplished in Bulgaria. The relationship built from the jumpmasters from the U.S. and jumpers from Bulgaria is a bond that solidifies with each jump.

"It gets easier when we have a solid foundation of jumping with them in the past," said Staff Sgt. Myron Austin, an airborne planner assigned to the 435th Contingency Response Group and the jumpmaster for the operation. "This is my third trip to Bulgaria, and I have made plenty of friends that know me by face; the trust is there."