- Title: BULGARIA: U.S. holds joint military training with Bulgarian forces
- Date: 18th October 2008
- Summary: (CEEF) NOVO SELO MILITARY TRAINING FACILITY, BULGARIA (OCTOBER 09, 2008) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF NOVO SELO MILITARY TRAINING FACILITY BULGARIAN AND U.S. FLAGS FLYING VARIOUS OF U.S. SOLDIERS WITH HUMVIES SOLDIERS POSING AS ARMED ARAB MILITANTS FOR EXERCISE VARIOUS OF MILITARY TRAINING EXERCISES VARIOUS OF FIRING DURING TRAINING EXERCISE VARIOUS OF MILITARY CONVOY RUNNING INTO AMBUSH FIRE FIGHT WITH ENEMY VARIOUS OF 'WOUNDED' SOLDIERS BEING ATTENDED TO HUMVIES DRIVING PAST IN ACTION (SOUNDBITE) (English) SPECIALIST JAMES ENGLISH, U.S. ARMY SOLDIER, SAYING: "After a little initial confusion, just differences in the initial trainings, like we would do things one way, they did in another, we found a way to meet in the middle and accomplish the mission better than we had before." (SOUNDBITE) (Bulgarian)LIEUTENANT DEYAN DIMITROV, BULGARIAN ARMY OFFICER, SAYING: "All is fine, after completing the day's training we get together with the Americans in our free time, we talk not only about the training, but normal human things - how do they live in U.S., they ask us how do we live here." (SOUNDBITE) (English) SPECIALIST THRASHER, U.S. ARMY SOLDIER, SAYING: "Most definitely useful training that we have got here, learning just the procedures of how to do our job from the very beginning stages of planning, all the way to actually doing the mission with boots on the ground, it has been very, very helpful."
- Embargoed: 2nd November 2008 12:00
- Location: Bulgaria
- Country: Bulgaria
- Topics: Defence / Military
- Reuters ID: LVA2WGUSQQXON10EXQZ7EW6R7P4
- Story Text: The arrival of 900 U.S. soldiers in eastern Bulgaria has raised local hopes of economic benefits but has also caused disquiet amongst some Bulgarians who fear their presence may lead to potential attack rather than provide protection.
Bulgaria, a staunch ally of the United States, agreed in 2006 to host up to 2,500 U.S. troops in a rotation of about six months for 10 years at the Novo Selo, the Bezmer air base near the border with Turkey and the Graf Ignatievo airfield.
The U.S. bases in Bulgaria and in neighbouring Romania are part of a Washington plan to shift military focus from Cold War era bases in Western Europe and allow a speedy deployment of troops in conflict zones in the Middle East and beyond.
The U.S. and Bulgarian soldiers said they are benefitting from joint military training where they can interact and compare their tactics on the field.
"After a little initial confusion, just differences in initial trainings, like we would do things one way, they did in another, we found a way to meet in the middle and accomplish the mission better, than we did before." - says Specialist James English, still dressed as a 'terrorist'.
"All is fine, after completing the day's training we get together with the Americans in our free time, we talk not only about the training, but normal human things - how do they live in U.S., they ask us how do we live here." - says Lieutenant Dimitrov, Bulgarian army officer.
"Most definitely useful training that we have got here, learning just the procedures of how to do our job from the very beginning stages of planning, all the way to actually doing the mission with boots on the ground, it has been very, very helpful," said U.S. Specialist ,Thrasher.
Novo Selo in the southeast is, with the Bezmer air base near the border with Turkey and the Graf Ignatievo airfield, one of the three bases for the U.S. troops on rotation of about six months for 10 years.
The reaction of Russia -- a traditional ally and, crucially Bulgaria's sole energy supplier -- looms large in the minds of many in the Balkan state of 7.6 million.
For many in the small Black Sea country -- once Soviet Union's most obedient satellite -- Thrasher's arrival along with 900 U.S. troops for initial training in one of three military bases Sofia has provided to Washington, raises concerns.
Opinion polls show a majority in the country of 7.6 million fear the U.S. military presence could make Bulgaria, now a NATO and European Union member, a potential terror target, rather than provide protection.
But in the tiny village of Mokren that neighbours the Novo Selo training area in the southest, hopes are high that the presence of the U.S.
soldiers will benefit the area.
The planned 61 million U.S. Dollar (USD) construction of a new camp at Novo Selo should bring most of the men back to the village and the need of support personnel in the canteen will provide for the women, officials say.
The mayor, Emil Enchev, also sees new hotels, bars and restaurants mushrooming in the area.
"We have big hopes, the thing is to avoid disappointment, not to mislead ourselves,"Enchev said.
For the 1,000 population of Mokren, many of whom travel to Greece and Spain for low-paid seasonal jobs, much of the concerns have given way to hopes for quick economic benefits.
"The best thing for Mokren is that there is a new perspective for the village to grow and develop along the military polygon. And the promise, that there will be a military village here.
If that fails, we will stage protests then," said Georgi Uzunov, a retired teacher at the Mokren village school.
But some in the village find the extra activity in the area problematic.
"What embarrasses us is the noise of helicopters, heavy military trucks, military police, high security, this is a little shocking," said Atanaska Ivanova, local villager.
Apart from Bulgaria's reliance on Russian energy imports, pro-Russian sentiment still runs deep in a country that was Moscow's most loyal satellite in Soviet times, but is now a member of NATO and the European Union.
During Russia's armed incursion into Georgia in August, most Bulgarians, unlike their European allies and other former members of the old Warsaw Pact, were noticeably indifferent to Moscow's action.
A recent survey of the German Marshall Fund among 12 European countries and the United States found Bulgarians to be the friendliest towards Russia.
Observers say though that, while there is a potential risk for a terror attack against Bulgaria, which has sent troops to Iraq and Afghanistan, the security gains are great.
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