Thracian Summer 2023: Another one for the books

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Jordan Lazaro
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

BEZMER AIR BASE, Bulgaria – U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 86th Airlift Wing and 435th Air Ground Operation Wing at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, teamed up with members of the Bulgarian air force during the Bulgarian air force-sponsored field training exercise Thracian Summer 2023, from Aug. 7-17, at Bezmer Air Base, Bulgaria; Cheshnegriovo Air Base, Bulgaria; and surrounding areas.

The goal of the FTX is to enhance interoperability, and maintain joint readiness in a simulated rapid deployment consisting of multiple combat training objectives including heavy equipment and personnel airdrops, U.S. C-130J Super Hercules and Bulgarian C-27J Spartan interflies, and simulated mass casualty scenarios.

"U.S. Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa works side by side with our allies and partners from strategic locations throughout Europe that are critical for timely and coordinated responses,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Joshua McLaughlin, 37th Airlift Squadron director of staff and Thracian Summer 2023 detachment commander. “The ability to employ rapid deployment measures with sustainable operations from great distances is made possible through participating in exercises like Thracian Summer.”

The training objectives focused on improving the U.S. and Bulgarian air forces’ ability to provide comprehensive logistical support and enhanced interoperability.

“The joint Bulgarian and U.S Thracian Summer exercise enhances the capabilities and interoperability of the Air Force and Joint Special Operations Command personnel while participating in international exercises and operations,” said Lt. Col. Plamen Donchev, 16th Air Base, Sofia flight training deputy commander of and Bulgarian commander of the exercise.

This multi-wing exercise also allowed members of the 86th AW and 435th AGOW to work with Bulgarian NATO allies to build relationships and familiarization of each other's processes to ensure timely and coordinated responses. Participating in exercises like this aid in the U.S. ability to to employ Agile Combat Employment which is a proactive and reactive operational scheme of military movements to optimize support in a timely manner and generate air power.

“Agile Combat Employment is a key concept for how U.S. forces can provide support by networks of smaller, dispersed locations, or cluster bases to increase availability, combat adversaries and gain advantage,” said Master Sgt. Stephen Baker, 435th Contingency Response Squadron jump master.

Today’s global environment requires rapid deployment capabilities with sustainable operational forces from great distances, McLaughlin said. The cohesive efforts with allies and partners allows the U.S. and NATO to provide support to combat and prevent current and future threats.

“Keeping our NATO relationships strong allows us to work together as a team to address security threats in and beyond Europe,” said Capt. Kenny Baird, 86th Operations Support Squadron flight commander and Thracian Summer 2023 mission commander. “With a combination of permanent and allocated forces, the U.S. has enabled its forces in Europe to effectively deter threats and defend our allies and partners as needed.”

The U.S. continues to enhance tactical skills, professional relationships and improve overall coordination with allies and partner militaries to ensure a united front in times of need.