BEZMER, Bulgaria — The 12th Combat Aviation Brigade demonstrated its ability to rapidly project aviation assets from their homes in Germany to Eastern Europe in under 12 hours by deploying 17 aircraft from 3 separate bases across Germany, crossing 7 countries and more than 1,000 miles.

Elements of the 1-214th Aviation Battalion, 12th Combat Aviation Brigade, arrived at Bezmer Airfield, Bulgaria on Friday, April 30, 2021 to participate in Swift Response 21, part of the larger DEFENDER-Europe 21 series of exercises.

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“1st of the 214th is unique among other battalions because we are involved across the breadth of DEFENDER-Europe 21. While we are completing our external evaluation here at Swift Response, we also have support packages going to Saber Guardian in Hungary and additionally our fixed-wing company is flying missions in support of other DEFENDER Europe exercises across the theater,” said Lt. Col. Matthew McGraw, commander of the 1st Battalion, 214th Aviation Regiment. “We’ve had an outstanding reception from our hosts, -the Bulgarian Army. They’ve been extremely helpful setting conditions for us to be successful here at Bezmer.”

The purpose of this training is to demonstrate 12th CAB’s ability to project forces across the European theater and once there, prepare immediately for follow-on operations. This includes two major air assaults with the 173rd Airborne Brigade. This month, 12th CAB will work hand in hand with the 173rd to complete air assaults in a complex environment, under night-vision goggles, with a live threat.

“It gives us the opportunity to test our mettle and make sure that we are ready to fight and win when called upon,” said McGraw.

McGraw acknowledges the difficulties in rapidly moving his battalion this distance, and he attributes the success of doing so to two specific groups under his command.

“The first being our unit movement officers - those trained Soldiers set conditions for us to successfully project forces this far. The second, and most important piece for aviation, is our maintainers. My maintainers in this battalion have done a phenomenal job preparing these helicopters to deploy this distance.”

DEFENDER-Europe 21 is a large-scale U.S. Army-led exercise designed to build readiness and interoperability between the U.S., NATO allies and partner militaries. This year, more than 30,000 multinational forces from 26 nations will conduct nearly simultaneous operations across more than 30 training areas in 14 countries from the Baltics to the strategically important Balkans and Black Sea Region. Follow the latest news and information about DEFENDER-Europe 21, visit www.EuropeAfrica.army.mil/DefenderEurope.