Tennessee Air National Guard Members Participate in Falcon Defender '21
By Staff Sgt. Darby Arnold, 134th Air Refueling Wing
/ Published September 15, 2021
Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria – U.S. Airmen from the Tennessee Air National Guard and the 435th Contingency Response Group, Ramstein Air Base, Germany, participate in Falcon Defender 21 here, July 19-26.
Falcon Defender 21 is a bilateral training exercise with the Bulgarian air force that increases operational capacity, capability, and interoperability for security forces and force protection measures.
“This exercise allows us to utilize training and tactics to support the warfighter through rapid global deployment,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Bailey, 134th Security Forces Squadron Commander and Lead Coordinator for Falcon Defender 21. “It also allows us to work closely with our NATO allies through training and operational skills.”
Training during the exercise focuses on security forces and force protection capabilities including armory and equipment operation, vehicle and radio operations, installation entry control point operations, coordination of support to logistics, police operations, coordination of base support operations and installation integrated defense operations.
“We have five stations that we are walking our Bulgarian counterparts through: Shoot-Move-Communicate, Tactical Maneuvers, Combative Hand-to-hand Skills, Base Defense Operations Center Functions, as well as a Shoot-No-Shoot and Handcuffing Scenario,” said Bailey. “This exercise helps the Bulgarians by allowing them to see training and tactics that the U.S. Air Force uses to further develop their force protection measures. It enhances the U.S. Air Force by further reinforcing our ability to rapidly deploy.”
The Republic of Bulgaria has had a bilateral agreement with the Tennessee National Guard under the U.S. National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program since 1993, prior to joining NATO in 2004. The SPP links a unique component of the Department of Defense – a state's National Guard – with the armed forces or equivalent of a partner country in a cooperative, mutually beneficial relationship.
“It is important for members of the Tennessee Air National Guard to continue that relationship between our two countries utilizing exercises such as Falcon Defender 21,” said Bailey. “By including both defenders from the Tennessee Air National Guard and the airmen from the Bulgarian air force in the training revolutions, it allows relationships to develop and foster connections to be made for future events.”
Chief Sergeant Georgi Mihaylov of the Bulgarian air force expresses how this exercise and experience has been for him.
“I’ve been working with our U.S. Counterparts for many years, but this exercise with the Tennessee Air National Guard has been one of my best experiences,” said Mihaylov. “We’ve learned a lot from each other. We’ve received training but we have also gained comradery;
friendships have been built. And I believe that the friendships we’ve made make us stronger. We are stronger together.”