A team of Michigan Army National Guardsmen from the 126th Public Affairs Operations Center are in Bulgaria to participate in STRIKE BACK 19, held from June 6-20, 2019, to strengthen their skills as the storytellers of the military.

"It's the closest scenario we can get to being in a deployed environment," said Michigan Army National Guard Lt. Col. Savannah Halleaux, commander of the 126 Public Affairs Operations Center. "Missions such as this are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a lot of these soldiers."

STRIKE BACK 19 is a multinational exercise held at Novo Selo Training Area, Bulgaria, designed to increase capabilities and interoperabilities with Bulgarian, Albanian, Greek, North Macedonian and U.S. Troops. During exercise, the Michigan Soldiers will be partnered with a Bulgarian public affairs team to provide coverage.

Participation in this mission gives the 126th's Soldiers a unique opportunity to experience the challenge of telling the story of the U.S. Army while in a foreign country. They must report on a variety of Army professions while overcoming communication barriers and learning the operations of foreign militaries.

"The creation of good coordination and interaction between the representatives of the media center for the exercise Strike Back 2019 is a prerequisite for the successful completion of the mission," said Bulgarian Col. Violina Valeva, Deputy Chief of the Office of the Commander of BGR Joint Force Command. "We already have experience from our coordination during Saber Guardian 2017, and I hope that after this exercise we will be better professionals and we will work better and better and more successfully for the achievement of our joint tasks."

"They're exceptional communicators both in explaining the Bulgarian culture and the local area, as well as their military and way of doing public affairs," said Halleaux about the Bulgarian public affairs team. "That openness has been very informative to our leadership as well as our Soldiers."

This exercise is one of the many consecutive exercises to be held this summer in Southeast Europe in conjunction with U.S. Army Europe.

"The thousands of servicemen engaged in these exercises give an illustrious example of the aspirations of NATO and other partner states to build a zone of peace and security in the Black Sea region," said Brig. Gen. Kostadin Kuzmov, commander of the 2nd Mechanized Brigade, which is hosting this live-fire, multinational event.