A-10 pilots take to Bulgarian skies during "Reunion April 2009"
BEZMER AIR BASE, Bulgaria -U.S. and Bulgarian Air Force pilots are honing their close air support and combat search and rescue skills during "Reunion April 2009" here, April 7-28.
BEZMER AIR BASE, Bulgaria — Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Watson, 52nd Equipment Maintenance Squadron armament systems technician, demonstrates A-10 armament equipment to Air Force Col. Pete Maynard. Colonel Maynard toured Bezmer Air Base April 17, 2009. He was recently assigned to the Bulgarian Defense Attache' Office. (Department of Defense photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Bill Gomez)
5 photos: BEZMER AIR BASE, Bulgaria — Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Watson, 52nd Equipment Maintenance Squadron armament systems technician, demonstrates A-10 armament equipment to Air Force Col. Pete Mayna
Photo 1 of 5: BEZMER AIR BASE, Bulgaria — Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Watson, 52nd Equipment Maintenance Squadron armament systems technician, demonstrates A-10 armament equipment to Air Force Col. Pete Maynard. Colonel Maynard toured Bezmer Air Base April 17, 2009. He was recently assigned to the Bulgarian Defense Attache' Office. (Department of Defense photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Bill Gomez) Download full-resolution version
BEZMER AIR BASE, Bulgaria — U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Patrick Parrish, 81st Fighter Squadron pilot, suits up and prepares to fly on a training mission over Novo Selo Training Range, Bulgaria. Parrish deployed here to support a joint training exercise "Reunion April 2009." (Department of Defense photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Bill Gomez)
5 photos: BEZMER AIR BASE, Bulgaria — U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Patrick Parrish, 81st Fighter Squadron pilot, suits up and prepares to fly on a training mission over Novo Selo Training Range, Bulgaria. Parri
Photo 2 of 5: BEZMER AIR BASE, Bulgaria — U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Patrick Parrish, 81st Fighter Squadron pilot, suits up and prepares to fly on a training mission over Novo Selo Training Range, Bulgaria. Parrish deployed here to support a joint training exercise "Reunion April 2009." (Department of Defense photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Bill Gomez) Download full-resolution version
BEZMER AIR BASE, Bulgaria -- Capt. Vladislav Todorov, a Bulgarian SU-25 pilot, explains the SU-25 cockpit to U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Priscilla Giddings, 81st Fighter Squadron A-10 pilot April 15, 2009. Pilots from the 81st FS and Bulgarian air force jointed together during Reunion April 2009 to hone their close air support and combat search and rescue capabilities.
5 photos: BEZMER AIR BASE, Bulgaria -- Capt. Vladislav Todorov, a Bulgarian SU-25 pilot, explains the SU-25 cockpit to U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Priscilla Giddings.
Photo 3 of 5: BEZMER AIR BASE, Bulgaria -- Capt. Vladislav Todorov, a Bulgarian SU-25 pilot, explains the SU-25 cockpit to U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Priscilla Giddings, 81st Fighter Squadron A-10 pilot April 15, 2009. Pilots from the 81st FS and Bulgarian air force jointed together during Reunion April 2009 to hone their close air support and combat search and rescue capabilities. Download full-resolution version
NOVO SELO, Bulgaria -- An 81st Fighter Squadron A-10 "Warthog" fires ammunition during a training mission over Novo Selo Training Range, Bulgaria. The Spangdahlem A-10s were used to support Reunion April 2009, a joint training exercise between the U.S. and Bulgarian Air Forces.
5 photos: NOVO SELO, Bulgaria -- An 81st Fighter Squadron A-10 "Warthog" fires ammunition during a training mission over Novo Selo Training Range, Bulgaria.
Photo 4 of 5: NOVO SELO, Bulgaria -- An 81st Fighter Squadron A-10 "Warthog" fires ammunition during a training mission over Novo Selo Training Range, Bulgaria. The Spangdahlem A-10s were used to support Reunion April 2009, a joint training exercise between the U.S. and Bulgarian Air Forces. Download full-resolution version
BEZMER AIR BASE, Bulgaria --  An 81st Fighter Squadron A-10 "Warthog" taxis down the runway to take off on a training mission with Bulgarian SU-25s parked in the background at Bezmer Air Base, Bulgaria. The Spangdahlem A-10s deployed here to support Reunion April 2009, a U.S. and Bulgarian Air Forces joint training exercise.
5 photos: BEZMER AIR BASE, Bulgaria -- An 81st Fighter Squadron A-10 "Warthog" taxis down the runway to take off on a training mission.
Photo 5 of 5: BEZMER AIR BASE, Bulgaria -- An 81st Fighter Squadron A-10 "Warthog" taxis down the runway to take off on a training mission with Bulgarian SU-25s parked in the background at Bezmer Air Base, Bulgaria. The Spangdahlem A-10s deployed here to support Reunion April 2009, a U.S. and Bulgarian Air Forces joint training exercise. Download full-resolution version
BEZMER AIR BASE, Bulgaria — Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Watson, 52nd Equipment Maintenance Squadron armament systems technician, demonstrates A-10 armament equipment to Air Force Col. Pete Maynard. Colonel Maynard toured Bezmer Air Base April 17, 2009. He was recently assigned to the Bulgarian Defense Attache' Office. (Department of Defense photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Bill Gomez)
BEZMER AIR BASE, Bulgaria — U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Patrick Parrish, 81st Fighter Squadron pilot, suits up and prepares to fly on a training mission over Novo Selo Training Range, Bulgaria. Parrish deployed here to support a joint training exercise "Reunion April 2009." (Department of Defense photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Bill Gomez)
BEZMER AIR BASE, Bulgaria -- Capt. Vladislav Todorov, a Bulgarian SU-25 pilot, explains the SU-25 cockpit to U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Priscilla Giddings, 81st Fighter Squadron A-10 pilot April 15, 2009. Pilots from the 81st FS and Bulgarian air force jointed together during Reunion April 2009 to hone their close air support and combat search and rescue capabilities.
NOVO SELO, Bulgaria -- An 81st Fighter Squadron A-10 "Warthog" fires ammunition during a training mission over Novo Selo Training Range, Bulgaria. The Spangdahlem A-10s were used to support Reunion April 2009, a joint training exercise between the U.S. and Bulgarian Air Forces.
BEZMER AIR BASE, Bulgaria --  An 81st Fighter Squadron A-10 "Warthog" taxis down the runway to take off on a training mission with Bulgarian SU-25s parked in the background at Bezmer Air Base, Bulgaria. The Spangdahlem A-10s deployed here to support Reunion April 2009, a U.S. and Bulgarian Air Forces joint training exercise.

BEZMER AIR BASE, Bulgaria — U.S. and Bulgarian Air Force pilots are honing their close air support and combat search and rescue skills during "Reunion April 2009" here, April 7-28.

While the joint training exercise was a reunion for Bulgarian and American partnership efforts, this is the first time the 81st FS has trained in Bulgaria.

The 81st FS was originally scheduled to train in another country; however, due to some unexpected obstacles, the location was changed to Bulgaria.

"It was not decided until February to come here, and essentially the Bulgarians agreed immediately knocking down all of the road blocks to make it happen," said Col. David Wilmot, U.S. Defense and Air Attache' to Bulgaria. "The amazing part was that even though it was a late add-on by the U.S. Air Force, the Bulgarian government did not hesitate."

Bulgaria offers many unique training opportunities for the Thunderbolt II pilots.

"It is an excellent place to perform our mission and to practice low altitude training," said 1st Lt. Priscilla Giddings, 81st FS pilot. "For the past week, we have been the only aircraft airborne, so we have a huge operating area. We can fly from the surface up to 24,000 feet running though all of our training requirements."

The opportunity to train with the SU-25, an aircraft designed for the same purpose as the A-10, is something the pilots appreciate.

"It has been an amazing opportunity," Giddings said. "They perform together very well because we have similar airspeeds, limitations and capabilities."

In addition to flying with the SU-25s, the pilots have also participated in training scenarios with Mig-29s and AS-532ALs.

"Some of our compatriots who fly air-to-air never get this opportunity," said Lt. Col. Timothy Hogan, 81st FS commander. "It has been very unique for us to be here and sit down to discuss tactics, techniques and procedures. It is fantastic."

Wilmot believes the Airmen who deployed here will leave with more than just increased technical expertise.

The most important part of this is what the pilots, maintainers and other Airmen are going to learn about each other and the relationships they will build, Wilmot said. "This is going to go a long way in solidifying the relationship between the two countries."

If the 81st FS is invited back to Bezmer, Maj. Benjamin Griffith is just one of the pilots here who said he would jump at the chance to return.

"I think any A-10 pilot would jump at the opportunity to come back to Bezmer and accomplish this exercise again," he said. "The training here is really outstanding in terms of weather, lack of airspace restrictions, freedom of movement and a range we could use on a daily basis to deploy weapons -- all of these are available at Bezmer."

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