SOFIA, Bulgaria - To mark three decades of cooperation as one of the original partners in the State Partnership Program, the Tennessee National Guard and the Bulgarian Armed Forces held more than 30 bilateral engagements throughout the year culminating in a two-day conference and celebration in Sofia Sept. 28-29.
The conference served as a tribute to past achievements and an opportunity to plan future military cooperation projects and exercises.
“As one of the initial 13 teams to join the State Partnership Program in 1993, I am proud to say that over the past 30 years, we have formed a bond that goes beyond borders,” said Brig. Gen. Warner Ross, Tennessee’s adjutant general. “We have learned from one another and cultivated a mutually beneficial relationship founded on trust with a shared goal of global peace and security.”
Since becoming partners, Tennessee and Bulgaria have collaborated on over 600 bilateral training exercises and cultural engagements through the Department of Defense National Guard Bureau program.
“As we look towards the future of our partnership, we will continue to prioritize modernization, upgrade equipment, boost readiness, and enhancing mobility,” said Ross. “We will continue to foster cultural exchanges, deepen personal relationships, and create long-lasting friendships between our nations. “
The Tennessee delegation visiting Bulgaria included the state command team and leaders of all five of the Army National Guard’s major subordinate commands: Chattanooga’s 230th Sustainment Brigade, Jackson’s 194th Engineer Brigade, Knoxville’s 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, Smyrna’s 117th Regional Training Institute, Tullahoma’s 30th Troop Command, and the three Air National Guard Wings: the 118th Wing in Nashville, the 164th Airlift Wing in Memphis and the 134th Air Refueling Wing in Knoxville.
On Sept. 28, each leadership team partnered with their Bulgarian counterparts at the Rakovski National Defense College to discuss how they can continue contributing to and advancing the partnership and improve each nation’s capabilities.
“We discussed potential options for comprehensive optimization of planning based on the priorities in terms of preparation, which arise from the process of modernization of the defense system of the Republic of Bulgaria,” said Lt. Gen. Tsanko Stoykov, Bulgaria’s deputy chief of defense.
At the conference, working groups discussed integrated base defense, joint operations, combined aircraft operations, women’s peace and security, medical academics, emergency response, and enlisted and officer professional development.
“Bilateral cooperation in the field of training and exercises is a key factor in building capabilities, combat readiness and interoperability,” said Stoykov.
The Bulgarian delegation also hosted a 30th-anniversary celebration dinner in the courtyard of the Lozenets Residence in downtown Sofia. The celebration featured traditional Bulgarian cuisine, cultural exchanges, presentations and a performance by the Representative Ensemble of the Bulgarian Armed Forces.
In addition to the Tennessee delegation, notable attendees at the dinner included Andrea Brouillette-Rodriguez, the U.S. deputy chief of mission, and Todor Tagrev, Bulgaria’s defense minister.
On behalf of Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, Ross presented a state proclamation celebrating July 14 as the 30th anniversary of the partnership between the Republic of Bulgaria Armed Forces and the Tennessee National Guard.