Hogs, Friends in Bulgaria

Airmen of the 81st Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem AB, Germany, have been conducting close air support and combat search and rescue training with Bulgarian counterparts under Reunion April 2009, which began April 7 and runs through April 28 at Bezmer AB, Bulgaria. It was not where the 81st FS expected to be training, but the “Bulgarians agreed immediately, knocking down all of the road blocks,” when the other location presented some last minute obstacles, said Col. David Wilmot, US Defense and Air Attaché to Bulgaria. First Lt. Priscilla Giddings, one of the Spang A-10 Warthog pilots called it an “amazing opportunity” to work with the Bulgarian Air Force Su-25, which are designed for much the same mission. Working with the A-10 and Su-25 pilots during the CSAR training were Bulgarian AS-532L helicopters. The Su-25s flew initial cover for three “downed” US and Bulgarian airmen; the A-10s located the airmen and provided covering fire for the helicopters as they moved in for the pickup. They were aided by tactical air control party (TACP) airmen of the 2nd Air Support Operations Squadron at Vilseck, Germany, at Bulgarian insistence. “They did not want anybody dropping live on the range unless there was a [joint terminal attack controller] giving the ‘cleared hot’ call,” said SrA. Truman Smith, who also worked with the Bulgarians on their effort to build a TACP program. Overall, Lt. Col. Timothy Hogan, 81st FS commander, called the experience “fantastic.” He said, “It has been very unique for us to be here and sit down to discuss tactics, techniques, and procedures.” (Bezmer reports by TSgt. Tammie Moore—one and two and three)