By Staff Sgt. Joel SalgadoNovember 14, 2012
NOVO SELO, Bulgaria (Nov. 14, 2012) -- Soldiers from U.S. Army Europe and their partners from the Bulgarian Land Forces are working together here from Oct. 29 to Nov. 10, to certify a Bulgarian battalion as part of exercise Allied Force 12.
U.S. Army Europe's, or USAREUR's 172nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team is providing observer-controllers to oversee the training, while Soldiers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team will train alongside members of the Bulgarian 1st Battalion, 61st Mechanized Brigade, in the exercise. The brigades' support to the Bulgarian certification helps fulfill USAREUR and Department of the Army goals of providing U.S. support to coalition partners participating in contingency operations, and ensures the battalion is fully ready to deploy if called upon.
"Training like this is important because it best replicates the multinational environment in which our Soldiers will be operating downrange when serving in (the NATO International Security Assistance Force) or in other missions abroad," said Maj. Mary Clare Mckenna, desk officer for Bulgaria, Romania, Kosovo and Hungary at USAREUR's Security Cooperation Division.
As a lead-up to the battalion's certification, elements of the 61st Mechanized Brigade participated in several rotations during the past 18 months at USAREUR's Joint Multinational Readiness Center to prepare themselves and their multinational partners for contingency operations.
"I am very pleased to be here to today to congratulate the Bulgarian Armed Forces, and especially the Land Forces, on the certification of their first Battalion Battle Group -- the 1st Battalion, 61st Mechanized Brigade," said U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria Marcie Ries. "This achievement underscores the commitment of the Bulgarian Armed Forces to fully realizing their potential as a NATO member, as well as their importance to the alliance."
Bulgaria currently has nearly 600 soldiers supporting ISAF.