U.S. Soldiers team up with Bulgarian Air Force for critical search and rescue training

Aviators from A Company, 2-10 Assault Helicopter Battalion, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, and the Bulgarian Air Force planned and executed a combat search and rescue (CSAR) training during exercise Saber Guardian 17 in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, on July 11.

Since we’re from two different countries, getting on the same page and syncing up, so that we know how they work and how we operate, leads to a better chance of mission success in the long run

, said 1st Lt. Andy Scroggin, platoon leader and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilot with A Company, 2-10 Assault Helicopter Battalion.

It allows us to send a strong message to those that would threaten the alliance that we’re here and ready to fight with our partners and allies at a moment’s notice.

Planning for this training and others like it in Bulgaria for Saber Guardian began before U.S. Army Soldiers even arrived in country. After exchanging emails and setting training parameters, the groups sat down to define each other’s roles in the mission and discuss the tactics, techniques and procedures they would be using to execute it.

The mission’s formation of helicopters was led by an AS532 Cougar helicopter from the Bulgarian Air Force, followed by two of 10th CAB’s UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, and an Mi-24 Hind attack helicopter providing security in the rear. A service member from each unit was dropped off in a remote area, tasked with creating some kind of distinctive sign on the ground so they could be pinpointed after a search beacon gave off their general location to the search party.

The Bulgarians have been a great team to work with

, said Scroggin.

Their Cougar and Hind pilots are very skilled. The mountainous location gives us a great chance to practice terrain flying, and I’m just really excited for the training that has yet to come.

Within hours of being “lost,” the service members were promptly recovered by the formation of NATO allies, demonstrating their ability to quickly and successfully work together in the air and on the ground.

Saber Guardian is important in many different ways

, said Capt. Dobromir Manchev, 1st Squadron, 24th Air Base, Bulgarian Air Force.

I think the most important thing is that we can improve our interoperability. We can compare the procedures that we are using and that our American colleagues use and standardize the way we work together.

10th Combat Aviation Brigade will remain Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary for the majority of the month, training alongside NATO allies in the U.S. European Command, U.S. Army Europe-led annual summer exercise.

Exercise Saber Guardian 17 involves more than 25,000 service members from over 20 ally and partner nations. The largest of the Black Sea Region exercises, it is a premier training event for U.S. Army Europe and participating nations that builds readiness and improves interoperability under a unified command, executing a full range of military missions to support the security and stability of the Black Sea Region.