Immediate Response exercise wraps up in Bulgaria
NOVO SELO TRAINING AREA, Bulgaria — The Bradleys and tanks are gone, along with the generals and politicians. The rattle from 20,000 rounds of small-arms fire and boom of nearly 1,000 rounds from bigger guns has dissipated. Beaming officers have snapped their photos with trim translators, and taxed artillerymen have headed to the beach for a day of relaxing.
Immediate Response 05, a three-week training exercise with American and Bulgarian soldiers, comes to an end Saturday, when most of the 450 soldiers from 1st Armored Division, 7th Army Training Command and other units are set to return to their home bases.
Col. Jonathon Brockman, commander of 1st Armored Division Artillery and of the exercise, called the training a “great success.” Soldiers accomplished his top goals, including working with one of the country’s newest NATO partners and training troops, he said.
Gen. B.B. Bell, commander of U.S. Army Europe, said the military proved it could deploy to Bulgaria from Germany by flying two M1 Abrams tanks and two Bradley fighting vehicles into Bezmer air base on C-17 airplanes.
Bell excitedly laid out his vision of a promotional video, featuring a tank rolling onto the air base and leaving by rail during a briefing upon his arrival. He encouraged public affairs officials to publicize the exercise.
That’s not to say the three weeks went off without a hitch.
A Boeing engineer was called out after pilots landed a C-17 in a pool of water, damaging a rear panel and a strut. A portion of the landing strip does not drain to both sides after a hard rain, causing water to build up on one side, said Tech Sgt. Glenn Ackerman, with the 86th Contingency Response Group out of Ramstein, Germany. It’s a problem that may need to be addressed as U.S. officials negotiate to gain more access to Bezmer and Novo Selo.
Two days later in the early morning, crewmembers on the C-17 flight were involved in a one-car accident. Two members of the 6th Airlift Wing out of New Jersey received minor injuries, while two members of the 352nd Special Operations Group from Mildenhall, England, were uninjured, said 1st Lt. Erick Saks, a spokesman for the 305th Air Mobility Wing.
Bulgarian police did not charge the driver, Saks said, and the Air Force is investigating.
On the Army side of the exercise, five days of training in the field went off without a major incident. The exercise managed to attract attention in the Bulgarian press along with visits by Bulgarian generals and politicians, including the country’s president, Georgi Parvanov.