NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Col. Todd Wiles, commander of the 118th Wing, and Chief Master Sgt. Trenton Williams, 118th WG command chief, with Tennessee National Guard leadership, visited Graf Ignatievo Air Base in Bulgaria to strengthen the Tennessee National Guard’s relationship with the Bulgarian military through the State Partnership Program.
“The Bulgarians are moving over to fighter aircraft like the F-16 platform,” said Williams. “We are looking to help them with that transition. It’s going to include training their support personnel, maintenance capabilities, and the ability to defend their base effectively.”
The visit bolstered the bond that the 118WG has with Bulgaria and fostered a stronger rapport between the United States and its NATO allies. The Bulgarian Military and the Tennessee National Guard’s State Partnership Program have resulted in both standing up and strengthening Bulgaria’s military capabilities. Since the beginning of the program, Bulgaria joined both NATO in 2004 and the European Union in 2007.
“We are focusing on helping them develop their people,” said Williams. “Teaching them to develop and lean on their enlisted leaders. Teaching them this so in the future they can develop quicker and faster results.” Bulgaria’s recent parliamentary approval of purchasing F-16’s to replace their aging fleet of RAC MiG-29’s will continue Bulgaria’s connection with the United States into the future. The purchase will also include weapons and upgrade packages for the F-16 platform to keep it operational into the future.
“They have some smart and competent people and over the past 25 years are making the transition from former Soviet-era style of leadership,” said Williams. “We look forward to continuing our work with Bulgaria’s Air Force and supporting them in this transition.”