by Master Sgt. Toby Valadie
Louisiana Army and Air National Guard
4/27/2015 - PLOVDIV, Bulgaria -- The
Louisiana Air National Guard's 159th Fighter Wing from Naval Air
Station-Joint Reserve Base New Orleans, is participating in a bilateral
Flying Training Deployment with the Bulgarian Air Force at Graf
Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, April 16 - May 5, 2015.
Approximately 150 Airmen from the 159th FW, with other U.S. Air Force
assets, are participating in Thracian Eagle 2015 to increase joint
readiness and build interoperability with the Bulgarian forces.
Lt. Col. Matt Rippen, 159th Operations Group commander, said the
strengthened relationships and engagements with allies would demonstrate
the U.S. and NATO's shared commitment to a peaceful, stable and secure
"We are here to demonstrate our commitment and resolve to our NATO
Allies," said Rippen. "Conducting these bilateral training events helps
us strengthen our relationships and improve capabilities.
"The efforts of the 159th Fighter Wing bring the vital contributions of
the Air National Guard to enable the Air Force to maintain our global
presence and forward presence in Eastern Europe," Rippen concluded.
The training missions include U.S. Air Force F-15C/D Eagles, Bulgarian
MiG-29 fighters, Su-25 ground-support aircraft and anti-aircraft missile
complexes. During the missions, pilots will train on air-to-air
fighting and on the Balkan country's anti-aircraft missile defense
"We are going to fly and work together to exchange experience and
improve interoperability between our two countries," said Bulgarian
Brig. Gen. Ivan Lalov, Graf Ignatievo Air Base commander. "It is very
important to understand each other's techniques, tactics and