After spending a month at Leeuwarden Air Base, Netherlands, F-15C Eagles from the 122nd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron arrived at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, April 26.
Along with the aircraft, approximately 300 Airmen from the Louisiana and Florida Air National Guard are deployed to Europe as part of a Theater Security Package in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve with the goal of strengthening interoperability and enhancing regional security.
While in Leeuwarden, the 122nd EFS participated in the Royal Netherlands Air Force-led exercise, Frisian Flag. The purpose of Frisian Flag was to improve cooperation and capabilities between the multiple participating countries.
“We had excellent training in the Netherlands, as well as excellent support,” said Lt. Col. Daniel Fischer, 122nd EFS commander. “We interacted with some very different countries and everything went very well.”
Now they are gearing up to participate in Bulgaria’s Thracian Eagle, an exercise featuring Bulgarian Air Force MIG-29s, SU-25s and L-39s and ground-based air defense in integrated flying scenarios.
“We named the exercise ‘Thracian Eagle’ because we’re located in the Thracian valley and the Eagle is for the visiting F-15s,” said Capt. Dimitar Metaksov, the Graf Ignatievo flight group commander. “This exercise provides us with a lot of benefits. We get to work through different objectives and build relationships, while experiencing and learning different procedures, tactics and techniques.”
This next step in the TSP is just another opportunity for the 122nd EFS to reassure allies and partner nations that the U.S. commitment to European security is a priority. After Bulgaria, the TSP will forward deploy to other locations throughout NATO.
“We’re looking to just keep getting better at our training and keep building partnerships with our NATO Allies,” Fischer said. “We’re focusing on being better fighter pilots, better maintainers and a better unit as a whole.”