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Army participates in readiness exercise in Bulgaria

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The U.S. Army participated in a joint exercise with host Bulgaria’s air force, navy and land forces as part of Shabla 19 from June 10-15.

Shabla 19, which took place along the Black Sea coast in northeastern Bulgaria, is designed to improve readiness and interoperability between the Bulgarian forces and the 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command in Shabla, U.S. Army Europe, according to an Army news release.

A member of the Bulgarian Navy, Seaman Zheko Dobrev, died at 36 during the Shabla live-fire exercise, the Bulgarian Defense Ministry said Thursday. He felt uncomfortable and fainted while performing his duties and is believed to have suffered a heart attack, the ministry said.

The Devil Brigade Soldiers, who are based throughout Europe, trained in Short-Range Air Defense and showcased the Stinger Man-Portable Air Defense System. The 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment also displayed credibility with the MANPADS and the Avenger Air Defense System.

“SHORAD is our ability to engage a hostile aircraft in the immediate vicinity,” said Staff Sgt. Larry Kirby, squad leader with 3rd Battalion, 66th Armored Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. “Out here we have three qualified crews and they’re broken up into two man teams, a team chief and a gunner.”

Three teams of two soldiers each within the infrantry division participated.

The Devil Brigade sent 22 soldiers to Fort Sill, Okla., to train on the stinger missile system. With this knowledge, they were able train other soldiers and to serve as organic air defense assets for the brigade.

The stinger system “has that immediate response to an enemy air threat,” Kirby said. “We can immediately engage that air threat as soon as we see it, there’s no time delay in that response.”

The MANPAD teams have been preparing through several Table A gunneries and exercises and came there for the live-fire portion.

“We had two crews perform excellent and we got first time hits,” Kirby said. “No problems whatsoever, no lulls in the engagement sequence, [they] knew exactly what they were doing and very confident with the weapon system.”

Before Shabla 19, the 1st ABCT had not fired a SHORAD or MANPAD system in more than 20 years.

Devil Brigade includes more than 6,000 U.S. soldiers in Germany, Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania on a nine-month rotation, in support of Atlantic Resolve.

Atlantic Resolve provides ready, combat-credible forces through multinational training and security cooperation activities.

U.S. troops also participated with the Bulgarian Army as well as participants from Albania, Greece, North Macedonia in Strike Back 19 starting on June 9 and lasting until this Thursday.

Like Shabla, the exercise is designed to increase capabilities and interoperability with allies and partners. The highlight is a battalion Live Fire Exercise with artillery and mortar fires.

“I speak for the entire 1-16th Infantry Regiment when I say that we are not only excited to be able to put our skillsets and tireless training on full display, but we are also excited for what we can learn from all of our counterparts during our time here,” Capt. Matthew Ferlitsch, company commander for the 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment from Fort Riley, Kan., said in a news release.

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