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U.S., Bulgarian Troops Conduct Joint Training Exercise

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 29, 2004 – American and Bulgarian soldiers are training together as part of a first-of-its-kind joint military exercise held on Bulgarian soil.

The "Bulwark '04" exercise, which began July 27 at the Novo Selo training area, involves about 900 U.S. troops and around 200 Bulgarian soldiers, Navy Cmdr. Ike Skelton, a U.S. European Command spokesman, noted today.

The three-week exercise "is an important step in strengthening ties between Bulgarian and U.S. military forces," Skelton said, noting it's "the first such bilateral (U.S.) Army exercise on Bulgarian territory."

Bulgaria, along with Slovenia, Romania, Slovakia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia, joined NATO April 2. The exercise, Skelton said, "is a good opportunity for us to train in a new NATO partner's land and with Bulgarian soldiers."

Skelton said Bulwark '04 features American troops deployed from Germany and the United States.

For example, Illinois National Guard soldiers with the 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry Regiment "will train in light infantry, company-level tactics and will incorporate training with a platoon of Bulgarian infantry soldiers," he said.

Regarding news reports that speculate the U.S. is planning to move some of its 120,000 troops now in Germany to places in Eastern Europe, Skelton said, "our consultations with Bulgaria -- and many other countries -- are continuing.

"We have made no final decisions," he said.

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