NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Dignitaries from Bulgaria visited Tennessee Oct. 7-9, after signing a defense roadmap agreement with the United States at the Pentagon, Oct. 6.
The new training agenda, dubbed the U.S. – Bulgaria Defense Cooperation Roadmap, identifies the Bulgarian military's goals and mission and where the U.S. can assist them in meeting their goals and enhancing their military capabilities.
"We've had this partnership for 27 years," said Maj. Gen. Jeff Holmes, Tennessee's Adjutant General. "We have a long history of training together and have maintained a strong relationship over the years. We will continue to train together and share information."
Tennessee and Bulgaria have been partners since 1993 when they initially became one of the first pairs to team up in the State Partnership Program. The SPP links together a unique component of the Department of Defense – a state's National Guard – with the armed forces equivalent of a partner country in a cooperative, mutually beneficial relationship.
After the official signing at the Pentagon, Maj. Gen. Holmes brought Bulgarian officials back to Tennessee, where they spent a few days with their partners from the SPP.
On Oct. 7, Tihomir Stoytchev, Bulgarian Ambassador to the U.S., Krasimir Karakachanov, Bulgarian Minister of Defense, and Emil Eftimov, Bulgarian Chief of Defense, and others accompanied Tennessee National Guard leadership onto a KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft from the 134th Air Refueling Wing, based in Knoxville. The Bulgarians then witnessed an in-flight refueling of four F-16 Fighting Falcons from the South Carolina National Guard while on their way to Tennessee.
During their time in Tennessee, the Bulgarians were treated to various demonstrations at weapons ranges, training facilities and entry control points. They were given a realistic view of the training U.S. forces undergo regularly and how Bulgaria Armed Forces training compares to American forces. The Bulgarian delegation also got to fire the M-17, the Army's new handgun, at a small-arms pop-up target range in Tullahoma.
"These visits allow us to learn from each other," said Mr. Krasimir Karakachanov, Bulgarian Minister of Defense. "I'm positive our joint work will be getting even better and more efficient in the future, in the name of the security of our two great countries."
The Tennessee National Guard also hosted the Bulgarians on a tour of the world-famous Jack Daniels Distillery and took them to eat at "Taste of Europe," a middle-Tennessee restaurant owned and operated by Bulgarian-Americans. The following day, the group received a VIP tour of President Andrew Jackson's Hermitage home, just outside Nashville.
In the last 27 years, Bulgaria and Tennessee have participated in over 600 events together, to include training exercises and community outreach projects, both here in Tennessee and abroad. Tennessee leaders look forward to building on their relationship with the Bulgarians to strengthen strategic interests while increasing mutual warfighting capabilities.