1st CBCS supports Sentry Gold, builds partnerships in Bulgaria

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Chris Stagner and Airman 1st Class Tiffany Deuel
  • 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Airmen flood the flightline. Aircraft taxi, take off and land. Maintainers keep the planes safe for flight. It's busy.

This is nothing out of the norm for flightlines across the U.S. Air Force, but this isn't a U.S. Air Force base. This is Graf Ignatievo Air Force Base in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, and the flightline is a contrast of both air forces' capabilities.

American F-15s and Bulgarian MiG-21s and MiG-29s litter the airfield while American maintainers in coveralls or ABUs and Bulgarian maintainers in their combat uniforms hustle to keep all the airframes mission ready.

This is joint-exercise Sentry Gold - an exercise designed to assist the Bulgarian air force as it continues its integration into NATO and defense reform initiatives. While the exercise has been mutually beneficial for both air forces, bringing 10 F-15s and all supporting combat Airmen has taxed the base's infrastructure.

Scattered across the flightline are tents that have been built and buildings that have been turned into make shift operations centers as the almost 200 U.S. Air Force Airmen do their part to continue building partnership capacities between the U.S. Air Force and Bulgarian air force.
Airmen with very special skills came here in order to support the infrastructure needs of an entire combat unit. Those Airmen are the communications specialists with the 1st Combat Communications Squadron at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

"We here to support the 48th Fighter Wing during this important exercise," said 1st Lt. Christopher Bugg, 1st CBCS officer in charge of theater deployable locations. "We bring basic, necessary communications abilities such as non-secure and secure Internet, phones, land mobile radios and network management. We're here to make sure the operators have the communications abilities they need to get the mission accomplished."

The bulk of combat comm work is accomplished in the first three to four days.

"The first three or four days are always the busiest (as we establish the required infrastructure)," said Tech. Sgt. Art Pancoast, 1st CBCS facility chief. "After we have everything established, it becomes a matter of maintaining that infrastructure."

With the difficult work behind them, the communications specialists turned their attention to building partnerships with their Bulgarian counterparts.

"We brought in the Bulgarian air force communications officer and showed him what our capabilities are," said Staff Sgt. Robert Kocsis, 1st CBCS Network Operations supervisor. "It was a great opportunity for us to really build our relationship with people that might be deployed side by side with us in the future."