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37th AS supports Bulgarian military free-fall course during Thracian Fall 19

A U.S. military jumpmaster models an aircraft exit for a student from the Bulgarian 68th Special Forces Brigade during a military free-fall course in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Sept. 24, 2019. The military free-fall course was a central focus for Thracian Fall and the 37th Airlift Squadron provided primary aircraft support using their C-130J Super Hercules. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kirsten Brandes)

A U.S. military jumpmaster models an aircraft exit for a student from the Bulgarian 68th Special Forces Brigade during a military free-fall course in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Sept. 24, 2019. The military free-fall course was a central focus for Thracian Fall and the 37th Airlift Squadron provided primary aircraft support using their C-130J Super Hercules. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kirsten Brandes)

A U.S. military jumpmaster jumps with a student from the Bulgarian 68th Special Forces Brigade during a military free-fall course in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Sept. 24, 2019. The military free-fall course was a central focus for Thracian Fall and the 37th Airlift Squadron provided primary aircraft support using their C-130J Super Hercules. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kirsten Brandes)

A U.S. military jumpmaster jumps with a student from the Bulgarian 68th Special Forces Brigade during a military free-fall course in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Sept. 24, 2019. The military free-fall course was a central focus for Thracian Fall and the 37th Airlift Squadron provided primary aircraft support using their C-130J Super Hercules. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kirsten Brandes)

A group of jumpers with Bulgaria’s 68th Special Forces Brigade and U.S. military jumpmasters walk out to a 37th Airlift Squadron C-130J Super Hercules at Cheshnegirovo drop zone in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Sept. 26, 2019. During Thracian Fall 19, 37th AS airmen and aircraft are providing primary airlift support for Bulgarian 68th SFB members completing a U.S.-sponsored military free fall course. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kirsten Brandes)

A group of jumpers with Bulgaria’s 68th Special Forces Brigade and U.S. military jumpmasters walk out to a 37th Airlift Squadron C-130J Super Hercules at Cheshnegirovo drop zone in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Sept. 26, 2019. During Thracian Fall 19, 37th AS airmen and aircraft are providing primary airlift support for Bulgarian 68th SFB members completing a U.S.-sponsored military free fall course. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kirsten Brandes)

A jumper from the Bulgarian 68th Special Forces Brigade parachutes into Cheshnegirovo drop zone in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Sept. 26, 2019. The military free-fall course will allow members of the 68th SFB to qualify on a new type of parachute. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kirsten Brandes)

A jumper from the Bulgarian 68th Special Forces Brigade parachutes into Cheshnegirovo drop zone in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Sept. 26, 2019. The military free-fall course will allow members of the 68th SFB to qualify on a new type of parachute. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kirsten Brandes)

A jumper assigned to Bulgaria’s 68th Special Forces Brigade parachutes into Cheshnegirovo drop zone in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Sept. 26, 2019. Bulgarian 68th SFB members who complete the military free-fall course are expected to complete jumps with bags full of gear as well as rifles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kirsten Brandes)

A jumper assigned to Bulgaria’s 68th Special Forces Brigade parachutes into Cheshnegirovo drop zone in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Sept. 26, 2019. Bulgarian 68th SFB members who complete the military free-fall course are expected to complete jumps with bags full of gear as well as rifles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kirsten Brandes)

A jumper with Bulgaria’s 68th Special Forces Brigade glides into Cheshnegirovo drop zone in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Sept. 26, 2019. The students of the military free-fall course, using steerable parachutes, were expected to aim for the large orange tee. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kirsten Brandes)

A jumper with Bulgaria’s 68th Special Forces Brigade glides into Cheshnegirovo drop zone in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Sept. 26, 2019. The students of the military free-fall course, using steerable parachutes, were expected to aim for the large orange tee. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kirsten Brandes)

A jumper with Bulgaria’s 68th Special Forces Brigade recovers his parachute after a jump into Cheshnegirovo drop zone in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Sept. 26, 2019. Once the students of the military free-fall course landed, they were expected to recover their parachutes and prepare to jump again. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kirsten Brandes)

A jumper with Bulgaria’s 68th Special Forces Brigade recovers his parachute after a jump into Cheshnegirovo drop zone in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Sept. 26, 2019. Once the students of the military free-fall course landed, they were expected to recover their parachutes and prepare to jump again. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kirsten Brandes)

PLOVDIV, Bulgaria -- Airmen and aircraft from the 37th Airlift Squadron have been providing primary airlift support for a U.S.-sponsored military free-fall course in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Sept. 24 - Oct. 1, 2019.

As a central focus of Thracian Fall 19, the military free-fall course paired members of Bulgaria’s 68th Special Forces Brigade with contracted U.S. military jumpmasters to qualify the Bulgarian jumpers on a new type of parachute.

Bulgarian Brig. Gen. Yavor Mateev, commander of the 68th Special Forces Brigade, considers this type of training essential for maintaining readiness.

“Thracian Fall is one of the most important trainings for Bulgarian special forces,” Mateev said. “To be ready means that when something happens and we need to conduct real operations, we can sit in your plane and conduct safe and successful operations with the United States Air Force.”

U.S. Air Force Capt. Korie Roberts, Thracian Fall 19 mission commander, noted that the course gave members of the 37th AS the opportunity to practice their “bread and butter” airdrop capabilities.

“We get a lot of aircrew experience performing high altitude, low opening personnel drops and that’s great for our proficiencies, in addition to helping out the Bulgarians.” said Roberts. “This type of training really puts our interoperability to the test. We’re working with partner nations, exploring the capabilities that we share and how to make both of us stronger.”

Along with the airmen and aircraft of the 37th AS, members of the 435th Contingency Response Group provided landing zone controllers to conduct airfield operations and ensure safety for all involved.

Staff Sgt. Cameron Piontek, a landing zone controller with the 435th CRG, only had positive things to say regarding his experience on Thracian Fall 19.

“It’s been great, they’ve been super cooperative,” said Piontek, on working with the Bulgarian air force. “They’ve got a ton of stuff to teach us and we’ve got a ton of stuff to learn. They’ve been very welcoming, and have given us everything we’ve needed to get our training accomplished, and we’ve been able to help them out with some of their training as well, so it’s been kind of a win-win.”