Team effort leads to successful exercise

BEZMER AIR BASE, Bulgaria – Senior Airman Bryan Fleetwood, 52nd Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordinance Disposal team, removes a training rocket from an A-10 aircraft.  Airman Fleetwood deployed to Bezmer Air Base, Bulgaria, to support a joint U.S. and Bulgarian Air Forces training exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Bill Gomez)

BEZMER AIR BASE, Bulgaria – Senior Airman Bryan Fleetwood, 52nd Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordinance Disposal team, removes a training rocket from an A-10 aircraft. Airman Fleetwood deployed to Bezmer Air Base, Bulgaria, to support a joint U.S. and Bulgarian Air Forces training exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Bill Gomez)

BEZMER AIR BASE, Bulgaria – Staff Sgt. Justin Vandevender, 1st Combat Communications Squadron ground radio technician, aligns the elevation of a high-gain satellite communications antenna.  Sergeant Vandevender deployed to Bezmer Air Base, Bulgaria to provide communications support during a U.S. and Bulgarian Air Forces training exercise. Sergeant Vandevender is deployed from Ramstein Air Base, Germany.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Bill Gomez)

BEZMER AIR BASE, Bulgaria – Staff Sgt. Justin Vandevender, 1st Combat Communications Squadron ground radio technician, aligns the elevation of a high-gain satellite communications antenna. Sergeant Vandevender deployed to Bezmer Air Base, Bulgaria to provide communications support during a U.S. and Bulgarian Air Forces training exercise. Sergeant Vandevender is deployed from Ramstein Air Base, Germany. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Bill Gomez)

BEZMER AIR BASE, Bulgaria – Senior Airman Bryan Fleetwood and Master Sgt. George Price Jr., 52nd Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordinance Disposal team members, download a training rocket from an A-10 Thunderbolt II.  The two-man team deployed to Bezmer Air Base, Bulgaria to support a U.S. and Bulgarian Air Forces training exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Bill Gomez)

BEZMER AIR BASE, Bulgaria – Senior Airman Bryan Fleetwood and Master Sgt. George Price Jr., 52nd Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordinance Disposal team members, download a training rocket from an A-10 Thunderbolt II. The two-man team deployed to Bezmer Air Base, Bulgaria to support a U.S. and Bulgarian Air Forces training exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Bill Gomez)

BEZMER AIR BASE, Bulgaria -- Putting together and moving all the pieces required for an exercise like from Germany to Bulgaria for "Reunion April 2009" is not something that happens by sheer luck.

More than 200 Airmen from specialties ranging from communications to security forces helped ensure A-10 pilots and maintainers here had all of the support they needed to safely train to fly, fight and win.

"We had a lot of challenges to get here that were overcome by a lot of persistent hard work from everybody," said Lt. Col. Timothy Hogan, 81st Fighter Squadron commander. "There was a lot of paperwork, staffing and long hours to make sure we got here."

The airfield where the Airmen set up operations is located three and a half hours from the country's capital, Sofia, in the rural Bulgarian countryside. Since this is the first time a non-Bulgarian fighter squadron deployed to this airfield, there were infrastructure limitations that had to be addressed.

Security Forces
Airmen from the 52nd Security Forces Squadron traveled here to keep watch over the Bezmer flightline to protect the aircraft and the mission from possible malicious threats.

"Basically we are here to secure the aircraft," said Tech. Sgt. Brandon Snider, 52nd SFS patrolman. "If we are not out here, anybody can walk up to our aircraft and mess with our resources. Without a security presence, anyone could gather intelligence or destroy our resources."

Security forces Airmen have been working with the Bulgarian air force police. They are able to complete the mission despite having limited knowledge of each other's native languages.

They know 'yes,' 'no' and a few basic phrases, said Sergeant Snider. "We can't understand a whole sentence, but we understand enough. If they say 'gate,' I am there. They don't need to say anything else."

The teams work together to search vehicles and check IDs.

"They trust us to do our job, so we don't have to worry about knowing the language or anything like that," Sergeant Snider said.

Communications
The 1st Combat Communications Squadron deployed to Bulgaria from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, with a variety of equipment ranging from computers for morale to radios for communication, between joint tactical air controllers and pilots.

"If we were not here it would have a great impact on the mission because there would be no flow of information between headquarters and the people here," Senior Airman Jimmy Maddox, 1st CBCS wideband satellite communications journeyman.

The 1st CBCS Airmen are able to pack all of the equipment required to support an exercise such as this and be on a plane within 72 hours. It takes them about three hours after they arrive on location to set up satellite communications.

"We have UHF and HF system that can talk to planes within a 30-mile distance," Airman Maddox said. "So if they need to reach back to the tower, it is just a button away. We provide secure capabilities from plane to ground."

Since arriving at the 1st CBCS Airman Maddox has been on temporary duty assignments 17 times supporting a range of missions.

"It is good to have communications where ever you go. We do we give global reach back for anybody deployed," Airman Maddox said.

Explosive Ordnance Disposal
The 52nd Civil Engineer Squadron EOD flight sent a two person team here to provide aircraft and munitions emergency response. The team is postured to immediately respond to both aircraft in-flight and ground emergency incidents involving live munitions.

They would not be able to train with live munitions if EOD was not here, said Senior Airman Bryan Fleetwood, EOD journeyman.

The EOD Airmen brought specialized equipment here ranging from an aircraft safing kit with munitions pins to firing wire and blasting machine.

"If there are any hung or unsafe munitions, we will immediately respond, access the situation and mitigate any hazards" said Master Sgt. George Price Jr., 52nd CES EOD Flight Operations Chief. "We would point the aircraft in a safe direction and pin it to make sure no munitions will be ejected or fired while we are working on them. Then we would render the munition safe, download it and give it back to AMMO for disposition or take it to a safe area for disposal."

For Sergeant Price providing training support to his fellow Airmen has been a rewarding experience.

"This is a welcome break from doing what has been the norm for us the past six years, which is deploying on Joint Expeditionary Taskings focusing on counter IEDs and fighting the war on terror," Sergeant Price said. "This TDY helps us place emphasis on our core competences of launching and recovering aircraft to fly, fight and win in air, space and cyber space."

Mutual support
With the support of numerous agencies the pilot's training here have been halbe to hone their skills.

"I want to thank everyone for their amazing mutual support," Colonel Hogan said. "This has been amazing training for all of us. This is setting the foundation for us to come back out here and do it again, in terms of how we got here logistically and the support assets."