by Master Sgt. Andrew J. Moseley
177th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
7/21/2015 - GRAF IGNATIEVO AIR BASE, Bulgaria -- Approximately
150 Airmen and eight F-16s from the 177th Fighter Wing of the New
Jersey Air National Guard traveled overseas to participate in Thracian
Star 2015, a Bulgarian-led training exercise at Graf Ignatievo Air Force
Base, Bulgaria, from 13-24, July.
Thracian Star is a bilateral, total force training event to enhance
interoperability with the Bulgarian air force and to bolster readiness
to conduct combined air operations.
"I'm very happy that the representatives of the New Jersey Air National
Guard are here," said Bulgarian air force Brig. Gen. Ivan Lalov, Graf
Ignatievo Air Base commander. "It is always beneficial for the both
sides, and it goes in two directions. First, in the air combat training
such as basic flight maneuvers, to make our way of flying similar to
each other's and second, while we're not flying, we succeed in
developing new relationships, friendships, cultural differences and
interesting facts about each other and each other's country."
Flying training deployments are tremendous opportunities for the 177th
aircrews to hone their operational skills from a forward operating
"The 119th Fighter Squadron is excited to participate in Thracian Star
and it is a great opportunity for us to interact with our Bulgarian
counterparts, train with them and show them how flying with them will
strengthen our NATO alliance," said Lt. Col. Timothy Hassel, 119th
Fighter Squadron commander.
"We came over here primarily to do air-to-air training in basic fighting
maneuvers and tactical intercepts," said Hassel. "With their aircraft
being former Soviet Union designed aircraft, it will give our pilots a
chance to fly against an actual MiG vs. a simulated MiG, which we
usually have, and give them the chance to train against some NATO
aircraft and observe those capabilities."
None of the currently tasked future missions of the 177th have been curtailed at this time.