74th EFS completes 'far-reaching' European deployment

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Kayla Bowers, a 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot, looks out of the cockpit of her aircraft during the 74th EFS’s deployment in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve at Graf Ignatievo, Bulgaria, March 18, 2016. Operation Atlantic Resolve is a demonstration of the U.S.’s continued commitment to the collective security of NATO and dedication to the enduring peace and stability of Europe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden/Released)

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Kayla Bowers, a 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot, looks out of the cockpit of her aircraft during the 74th EFS’s deployment in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve at Graf Ignatievo, Bulgaria, March 18, 2016. Operation Atlantic Resolve is a demonstration of the U.S.’s continued commitment to the collective security of NATO and dedication to the enduring peace and stability of Europe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden/Released)

A 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron patch is displayed on the shoulder of U.S. Air Force Capt. Chandra Fleming, a 74th EFS A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot, during the 74th EFS’s deployment in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve at Graf Ignatievo, Bulgaria, March 18, 2016. The patch incorporates the squadron’s legacy which dates back to the original ‘Flying Tigers’ who served in the Burma-Indo-China Theater during World War II. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden/Released)

A 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron patch is displayed on the shoulder of U.S. Air Force Capt. Chandra Fleming, a 74th EFS A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot, during the 74th EFS’s deployment in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve at Graf Ignatievo, Bulgaria, March 18, 2016. The patch incorporates the squadron’s legacy which dates back to the original ‘Flying Tigers’ who served in the Burma-Indo-China Theater during World War II. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden/Released)

The Bulgarian and United States flags wave on flagpoles outside the Bulgarian air force 3rd Air Force Base headquarters at Graf Ignatievo, Bulgaria, March 16, 2016. The Bulgarians hosted the U.S. Air Force’s 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron which completed a six-month deployment to Eastern Europe March 18, 2016, in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden/Released)

The Bulgarian and United States flags wave on flagpoles outside the Bulgarian air force 3rd Air Force Base headquarters at Graf Ignatievo, Bulgaria, March 16, 2016. The Bulgarians hosted the U.S. Air Force’s 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron which completed a six-month deployment to Eastern Europe March 18, 2016, in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden/Released)

Bulgarian air force Brig. Gen. Ivan Lalov, 3rd Air Force Base commander, left, shakes the hand of U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Bryan France, 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron commander, right, during the 74th EFS’s deployment in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve at Graf Ignatievo, Bulgaria, March 16, 2016. The 74th EFS participated in a six-month deployment to Eastern Europe which began at Amari Air Base, Estonia, and concluded at Graf Ignatievo. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden/Released)

Bulgarian air force Brig. Gen. Ivan Lalov, 3rd Air Force Base commander, left, shakes the hand of U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Bryan France, 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron commander, right, during the 74th EFS’s deployment in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve at Graf Ignatievo, Bulgaria, March 16, 2016. The 74th EFS participated in a six-month deployment to Eastern Europe which began at Amari Air Base, Estonia, and concluded at Graf Ignatievo. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden/Released)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Bryan France, 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron commander, right, salutes U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Jason Story, 74th EFS maintenance officer, before addressing a flight of maintenance Airmen during the 74th EFS’s deployment in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve at Graf Ignatievo, Bulgaria, March 16, 2016. France touted the maintainers’ ability to generate thousands of sorties during their six-month deployment throughout countries in Eastern Europe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden/Released)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Bryan France, 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron commander, right, salutes U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Jason Story, 74th EFS maintenance officer, before addressing a flight of maintenance Airmen during the 74th EFS’s deployment in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve at Graf Ignatievo, Bulgaria, March 16, 2016. France touted the maintainers’ ability to generate thousands of sorties during their six-month deployment throughout countries in Eastern Europe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden/Released)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Bryan France, 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron commander, center left, and Chief Master Sgt. Steven Cournoyer, 74th EFS chief enlisted manager, center right, walk to the front of a flight of mission support Airmen for a commander’s call during the 74th EFS’s deployment in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve at Graf Ignatievo, Bulgaria, March 16, 2016. The Airmen served in various communications, security forces, civil engineer, contracting, force support and logistics capacities to augment the 74th EFS’s six-month deployment to Eastern Europe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden/Released)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Bryan France, 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron commander, center left, and Chief Master Sgt. Steven Cournoyer, 74th EFS chief enlisted manager, center right, walk to the front of a flight of mission support Airmen for a commander’s call during the 74th EFS’s deployment in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve at Graf Ignatievo, Bulgaria, March 16, 2016. The Airmen served in various communications, security forces, civil engineer, contracting, force support and logistics capacities to augment the 74th EFS’s six-month deployment to Eastern Europe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden/Released)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Bryan France, 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron commander, speaks during a media interview next to a U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II during the 74th EFS’s deployment in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve at Graf Ignatievo, Bulgaria, March 16, 2016. Approximately 350 Airmen from Moody Air Force Base, Ga., and Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, deployed for six months to train alongside NATO allies to strengthen interoperability and to demonstrate U.S. commitment to the security and stability of Europe.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden/Released)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Bryan France, 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron commander, speaks during a media interview next to a U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II during the 74th EFS’s deployment in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve at Graf Ignatievo, Bulgaria, March 16, 2016. Approximately 350 Airmen from Moody Air Force Base, Ga., and Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, deployed for six months to train alongside NATO allies to strengthen interoperability and to demonstrate U.S. commitment to the security and stability of Europe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden/Released)

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Nathanial Robinson Jr., left, Staff Sgt. Kevin Ray, center, and Senior Airman Ian Sinchak, right, all 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron aircrew flight equipment technicians from the 23rd Operations Support Squadron at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., inspect, repair and prepare flight equipment during the 74th EFS’s deployment in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve at Graf Ignatievo, Bulgaria, March 16, 2016. The technicians ensure a full spectrum of survivability of air crew for in-flight, flight ejection and land survival scenarios. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden/Released)

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Nathanial Robinson Jr., left, Staff Sgt. Kevin Ray, center, and Senior Airman Ian Sinchak, right, all 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron aircrew flight equipment technicians from the 23rd Operations Support Squadron at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., inspect, repair and prepare flight equipment during the 74th EFS’s deployment in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve at Graf Ignatievo, Bulgaria, March 16, 2016. The technicians ensure a full spectrum of survivability of air crew for in-flight, flight ejection and land survival scenarios. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Kevin Ray, a 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron aircrew flight equipment technician from the 23rd Operations Support Squadron at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., sews a tightened strap on a breathing mask during the 74th EFS’s deployment in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve at Graf Ignatievo, Bulgaria, March 16, 2016. The mask had been used as a breathing apparatus for 74th EFS pilots who were participating in the deployment to Eastern Europe.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Kevin Ray, a 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron aircrew flight equipment technician from the 23rd Operations Support Squadron at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., sews a tightened strap on a breathing mask during the 74th EFS’s deployment in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve at Graf Ignatievo, Bulgaria, March 16, 2016. The mask had been used as a breathing apparatus for 74th EFS pilots who were participating in the deployment to Eastern Europe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Kevin Ray, left, and Tech. Sgt. Nathanial Robinson Jr., right, both 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron aircrew flight equipment technicians from the 23rd Operations Support Squadron at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., check survival equipment during the 74th EFS’s deployment in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve at Graf Ignatievo, Bulgaria, March 16, 2016. Aircrew flight equipment technicians inspect and repair all gear issued before and after every flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden/Released)
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U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Kevin Ray, left, and Tech. Sgt. Nathanial Robinson Jr., right, both 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron aircrew flight equipment technicians from the 23rd Operations Support Squadron at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., check survival equipment during the 74th EFS’s deployment in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve at Graf Ignatievo, Bulgaria, March 16, 2016. Aircrew flight equipment technicians inspect and repair all gear issued before and after every flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden/Released)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Jacob Johnson, a 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron crew chief, removes the blocks from the wheels of a U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II during the 74th EFS’s deployment in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve at Graf Ignatievo, Bulgaria, March 18, 2016. Johnson and his fellow 74th EFS crew chiefs ensure all aircraft are prepared and safe for flight before and after each flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden/Released)
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U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Jacob Johnson, a 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron crew chief, removes the blocks from the wheels of a U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II during the 74th EFS’s deployment in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve at Graf Ignatievo, Bulgaria, March 18, 2016. Johnson and his fellow 74th EFS crew chiefs ensure all aircraft are prepared and safe for flight before and after each flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden/Released)

A U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot assigned to the 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron takes off from the flightline during the 74th EFS’s deployment in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve at Graf Ignatievo, Bulgaria, March 18, 2016. The squadron’s six-month deployment aimed to demonstrate the U.S.’s shared commitment to peace and better prepare allies and partners to respond to a range of potential security and humanitarian challenges. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden/Released)
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A U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot assigned to the 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron takes off from the flightline during the 74th EFS’s deployment in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve at Graf Ignatievo, Bulgaria, March 18, 2016. The squadron’s six-month deployment aimed to demonstrate the U.S.’s shared commitment to peace and better prepare allies and partners to respond to a range of potential security and humanitarian challenges. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden/Released)

GRAF IGNATIEVO AIR BASE, Bulgaria -- The 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron completed its six-month theater security package deployment throughout Eastern Europe March 18, 2016. 

Approximately 350 Airmen and 12 A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft from Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, participated in 13 events and exercises, visited 15 countries and conducted 1,193 sorties in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve.

"They've had to adjust to several different locations, lots of travelling, lots of movement, and then figuring out how to operate at a different location that has different capabilities -- sometimes not all of the capabilities that they're used to in order to do the mission," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Bryan France, 74th EFS commander. "But when it comes to actually getting the mission done, they've trained so well to it every day. So long as they're equipped for it, they're going to knock it out of the park."

France cited his squadron's ability to conduct fighter operations during winter weather on a rotational basis in Eastern Europe, execute forward air refueling point operations while doing austere landings, land on Soviet-era airfields and support detachments in six countries while operating a different number of A-10s and Airmen at each location.

He also described his squadron's partnership with the Bulgarians as one of ease, accommodation and mutual respect. Flight operations inherently produce challenges, he said, but added that face-to-face exchanges between Bulgarian and American pilots and ground controllers ultimately produce lessons learned that are far-reaching in both strategic and operational value.

"You don't want to learn those lessons in the middle of warfare," France said. "You want to learn them here in training, and we've been able to do that."
Bulgarian air force Brig. Gen. Ivan Lalov, 3rd Air Force Base commander, highlighted the bilateral partnership throughout the deployment, also known to the Bulgarians as Thracian Thunder 2016.

"I'd like to thank all of you and our other colleagues who are not here for their participation in this exercise, one of the longest exercises in our base," the general said. "Personally, I'd like to thank Lt. Col. France [for] our close cooperation. We tried to solve problems together, and I'm sure we solved them. Thanks again for your participation. We wish you success in your future."

In addition to multilateral exchanges, France talked about integrating with former Soviet Union aircraft, like the MiG 24, MiG 29 and SU-25s -- as an achievement many had been waiting their entire careers to see.

"These are all pieces of aviation that we studied as threats at one point, and we're now getting to fly with them as allies," France said. "Without having this opportunity to deploy as an EFS, we would never have seen that."

France said seeing the looks on the faces of Airmen, particularly those serving in mission support roles, when viewing the fruits of their labor was the most rewarding aspect of serving as the TSP commander.

"These are Airmen who don't always get to see the aircraft they're putting airborne by establishing communications structures, ensuring the flightline is guarded or getting cargo across country borders from Estonia to Bulgaria," France said. "Here, they got front-row seating to see what they put airborne and that mission accomplished."

With Plovdiv, Bulgaria - the City of Seven Hills - as the backdrop for their departure, the Flying Tigers snarled throughout the skies over the former Iron Curtain one final time.
They departed the same way they arrived: not under circumstances once feared during the height of the Cold War but as transatlantic partners committed to helping their NATO allies and deterring potential aggression.

While they completed just one installment in the U.S. Air Force's commitment to the security of Europe, France said he was confident about his squadron's place in the history of Operation Atlantic Resolve.

"What I can envision being written in the history books about the 74th EFS -- relative to this deployment in Operation Atlantic Resolve -- are all of the firsts that we've presented and the impact that these Airmen have made in assuring NATO alliances," France said. "These are the things you'll see happen on an operational basis later. And the people who showed that [it] can be done -- that was the 74th EFS."



To see more photos of the deployment, visit the following Flickr photo set.