Air advisor aides Bulgarian, NATO interoperability

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Timothy Moore
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
It is not always easy to step out of your comfort zone, but for military members it is sometimes required. One Airman from the 435th Air Ground Operations Wing's Contingency Response Group had the opportunity to step out and excel.

Staff Sgt. Luis Devotto, 435th CRG Air Advisor Branch air advisor special vehicle maintenance, trained 16 members from two Bulgarian movement control teams on the operations and maintenance of a Halvorsen aircraft loader.

"This was the first training event for the Air Advisor Branch," said Devotto. "Normally, we do familiarization events, advise and even assist in different subjects that countries may request. This request came down through Air Force Security Assistance Training."

AFSAT's mission is to develop, deliver, and manage education and training solutions in support of U.S. Security Cooperation objectives.

This training event was designed to help increase the interoperability of the Bulgarians with other members of NATO as the Bulgarian military moves to more modern equipment.

Devotto alongside Staff Sgt. Jonathan Rasmussen, 48th Logistics Readiness Squadron transportation specialist from Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, took on more responsibility than air advisors normally do.

"Normally for missions like this, people get handpicked," Devotto said. "They try to get a master sergeant; someone that has been in the career field for a long time. In this case, since it was vehicle maintenance, I got to carry that weight."

Devotto coordinated the event from beginning to end. He notified the units, got in touch with the embassy and made sure training documents were cleared by the Foreign Disclosure Office and the vehicle maintenance and operation technical school. He also made sure what he and Rasmussen were saying was accurate and followed the guidelines.

"When I first got the mission, I was told I would be doing training and be the air advisor," Devotto said. "That doesn't happen. It was kind of daunting, but as the coordination and the planning came through, I just felt very comfortable. It was definitely a confidence boost."

For some it not only built their skill sets, but also helped build partnerships as well.

"It was a pleasure to work with our Bulgarian NATO partners," Rasmussen said. "We were over there in a teaching capacity, but I came away from the trip having learned many new things myself. I can safely say that I have made many new friends, and I look forward to the possibility of going again."

For the Bulgarians, the experience seemed to be invaluable as well.

"What I liked the most was how we combine operations and maintenance," said Bulgarian Joint Forces Command 1st Lt. Dimitar Muldavliev, Movement Control Team 14380 leader, Plovdiv, Bulgaria. "For unexperienced operators, it's very hard to understand what's really happening under the hood of the vehicle, but when the driver has basic operator and basic maintenance skills it is easier. Of course everything comes with practice, but I think if you have knowledge from different areas, you start a few steps higher in the beginning."

After the operation and maintenance training was done, Devotto and Rasmussen then conducted a "train the trainer" course so members of the movement control teams could continue training their own people independently.

"This is just another step to make the Bulgarian Armed Forces more interoperable with other NATO forces," Devotto said. "I was glad to be a part of that."