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    Foreign weapons training keeps soldiers on their toes

    Foreign weapons training keeps soldiers on their toes

    Photo By Spc. Jacqueline Dowland | A soldier from 2nd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, fires a rocket-propelled grenade...... read more read more



    Story by Spc. Jacqueline Dowland 

    4th Public Affairs Detachment

    PODEBA, Bulgaria - While soldiers in the United States Army have the privilege of working with cutting-edge equipment and technology on a daily basis, there are still equipment and skills to be learned from a military ally thousands of miles away from home.

    Soldiers from 2nd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, participated in a weapons familiarization training exercise in Bulgaria, June 12, as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve.

    During the training, soldiers not only learned about weapons they'd never fired, they also experienced hands-on handling and firing of weapons belonging to their NATO ally, including the AK-47 assault rifle and rocket-propelled grenades.

    "This is an opportunity for everyone to see what each other does, and what we each bring to the fight, both individually and collectively," said 1st Lt. Paul T. Merten, platoon leader for 2nd Platoon, Eagle Troop, 2/2 CR, and a native of Corvallis, Oregon. "This is a unique experience in that most of our soldiers have never fired AK-47s, and only one soldier has fired an RPG."

    As Bulgarian leaders patiently explained safety principles and functionality of the weapons to the soldiers, the time devoted between the counterparts rewarded all involved as the participants successfully fired the weapons belonging to their Bulgarian allies. Excited shouts of pride and astonishment resounded from both American and Bulgarian soldiers alike as the soldiers hit targets hundreds of yards away, despite having never handled the weapons before.

    "The American Army has trained and fought in most areas of the world, and we are a little army, so it's an honor to be able to work with the soldiers and teach them new skills," said Maj. Nakolai Dimov Nikolov , deputy commander of 42nd Mechanized Battalion, Bulgarian army, and a native of Yambol, Bulgaria.

    The learning experiences gained extended beyond weapons systems, as the American soldiers gleaned new ways of thinking from their European allies. The perspectives imparted from their Bulgarian counterparts may allow the soldiers to have a more rewarding and open-minded experience during their time in Europe.

    "The Bulgarians are very culturally diverse and open to learning about new cultures," said Pfc. Elizabeth N. Nintai, a combat medic with 2nd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, of San Antonio, Texas, originally from Cameroon. "They've taught us to come out of our comfort zone and learn a few words in a new language while traveling to other countries."

    The soldiers also learned that the open-mindedness of their Bulgarian counterparts extends to military aspects as well. Despite the small size of the Bulgarian army, the soldiers were educated on the progressiveness of their European allies.

    "The Bulgarian army has women in their infantry, it's just part of life for the Bulgarian troops and they aren't treated any differently," said Merten. "They also have a willingness to persevere through a lack of equipment in that they don't have the same opportunities that we have to work with top of the line technology but they still move on and perform very well."

    As the American and Bulgarian soldiers set their weapons down and began to walk side-by-side to retrieve ammunition shells from the ground, all involved reflected on the afternoon of morale-building and education gained while joining for the united goal of learning from friends and further fortifying the already strong alliance.

    "My favorite part of this experience is the opportunity to get to know the Bulgarians on a personal level," said Merten. "I love being here so we can create lasting friendships."



    Date Taken: 06.12.2015
    Date Posted: 06.12.2015 16:01
    Story ID: 166473
    Location: PODEBA, BG
    Hometown: YAMBOL, BG
    Hometown: CORVALLIS, OR, US
    Hometown: SAN ANTONIO, TX, US

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