Sliven Strong Man Competition 2022
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Reese, assigned to 2nd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, wrestles with a local Bulgarian during one of several events for the Sliven Strong Man Competition, in Sliven, Bulgaria, May 6, 2022. The competition was inspired by Hadzhi Dimitar, a Bulgarian revolutionary who scaled a mountain with 43 liters of wine to resupply his unit. The U.S. is honored to participate in cultural events that strengthen ties with Bulgaria, a steadfast and gracious host to U.S. Army Soldiers, and to continue our long-term relationship with this strategic ally. (U.S. Army photo by Capt. Angelo Mejia, 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment) (Photo Credit: Capt. Angelo Mejia) VIEW ORIGINAL

SLIVEN, Bulgaria – “This is up there with Ranger School and it’s not close,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Reese, assigned to Eagle Troop, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, after competing in the Sliven Strong Man Competition, in Sliven, Bulgaria, May 6, 2022.

“I’ve been in for the better part of eight years, and this competition definitely whooped my tail. Nothing prepared me for this,” Reese said.

The Sliven Strong Man Competition is named in honor of Sliven revolutionary Hadzhi Dimitir, who ascended a mountain with 43 liters of wine to provide for his unit.

The band of rebels would send the strongest of them down to the village to gather supplies and bring them back up the mountain.

Sliven Strong Man Competition
1 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Army Soldiers pose with local Bulgarians during a celebration following the Sliven Strong Man Competition, in Sliven, Bulgaria, May 6, 2022. The competition was inspired by Hadzhi Dimitar, a Bulgarian revolutionary who scaled a mountain with 43 liters of wine to resupply his unit. The U.S. is honored to participate in cultural events that strengthen ties with Bulgaria, a steadfast and gracious host to U.S. Army Soldiers, and to continue our long-term relationship with this strategic ally. (U.S. Army photo by Capt. Angelo Mejia, 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment) (Photo Credit: Capt. Angelo Mejia) VIEW ORIGINAL
Sliven Strong Man Competition
2 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Reese, assigned to 2nd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, races up the Balkan Mountains with a 95-pound water sack during the Sliven Strong Man Competition, in Sliven, Bulgaria, May 6, 2022. The competition was inspired by Hadzhi Dimitir, a Bulgarian revolutionary who scaled a mountain with 43 liters of wine to resupply his unit. The U.S. is honored to participate in cultural events that strengthen ties with Bulgaria, a steadfast and gracious host to U.S. Army Soldiers, and to continue our long-term relationship with this strategic ally. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Dominique’ Crittenden, 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment) (Photo Credit: Spc. Dominique Crittenden) VIEW ORIGINAL
Sliven Strong Man Competition
3 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Cameron Pavlicek, assigned to 143rd Military Police Detachment, Montana National Guard, throws a knife as part of several events for the Sliven Strong Man Competition, in Sliven, Bulgaria, May 6, 2022. The competition was inspired by Hadzhi Dimitar, a Bulgarian revolutionary who scaled a mountain with 43 liters of wine to resupply his unit. The U.S. is honored to participate in cultural events that strengthen ties with Bulgaria, a steadfast and gracious host to U.S. Army Soldiers, and to continue our long-term relationship with this strategic ally. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Dominique’ Crittenden, 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment) (Photo Credit: Spc. Dominique Crittenden) VIEW ORIGINAL
Sliven Strong Man Competition
4 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Army Soldiers partake in a traditional dance with local Bulgarians during a celebration following the Sliven Strong Man Competition, in Sliven, Bulgaria, May 6, 2022. The competition was inspired by Hadzhi Dimitar, a Bulgarian revolutionary who scaled a mountain with 43 liters of wine to resupply his unit. The U.S. is honored to participate in cultural events that strengthen ties with Bulgaria, a steadfast and gracious host to U.S. Army Soldiers, and to continue our long-term relationship with this strategic ally. (U.S. Army photo by Capt. Angelo Mejia, 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment) (Photo Credit: Capt. Angelo Mejia) VIEW ORIGINAL

Petya Georgieva, Novo Selo Training Area community liaison officer, who is a Sliven native, spoke to the importance of Dimitir’s legacy, “The revolutionaries wanted Bulgaria to be free and they did everything possible to do it.”

The U.S. engagement in Bulgarian traditions is something that was presented with welcoming arms and accepted with warm receptions.

“From the people that organized the event, everybody is happy that we will have U.S. military participants in this event. They always invite [U.S. Soldiers] every year; everybody is happy for international participation,” said Georgieva.

Competitors are tasked with more than just the initial three-kilometer hike up the “Haiduk Trail” or “Haidushka Path”. Once they complete the first portion of the competition, they take part in knife throwing, stone tossing, and finish off with a wrestling match against other participants.

“We are very happy seeing the Soldiers here and the staff, and actually participating not just passively but so actively and enthusiastically with it,” says the Bulgarian Deputy Minister of Agriculture Ivan Hristanov, who spoke on what it means to have the U.S. participate in something so rich in his country's history.

“The wrestling was absolutely amazing. The spirit in both the U.S. side and the Bulgarian side was really great,” Hristanov said. Georgieva went on to express how much the food had excited her, “I had heard they have lamb, beer, and wine after the event, there will be folklore music. It will be something different, it’s a cultural exchange for both sides.”

The entire event left a lasting impression on both countries' participants and more importantly gave Reese a message to share with his fellow Soldiers back home.

“Just seeing people intermingling with each other, you don’t really get this opportunity as an American Soldier. Being able to come to the country and interact with the locals while experiencing their culture is the best experience.”

To learn more about U.S. Army Europe and Africa, visit: https://www.europeafrica.army.mil/

To learn more about V Corps, visit: https://www.vcorps.army.mil/

Follow 2nd Cavalry Regiment on Facebook

Follow Area Support Group-Black Sea on Facebook