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    U.S. Army and Bulgarian Forces Fire Together at Joint Exercise Pluto Rising



    Story by Spc. Jabari Clyburn 

    319th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

    NOVO SELO TRAINING AREA, Bulgaria— Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division rallied alongside the Bulgarian Tank Platoon, 61st Tank Battalion to execute joint force exercise Pluto Rising here, March 18.

    Meticulously planned, Pluto Rising highlighted the interoperable capabilities between the United States and Bulgarian land forces. By design, the exercise deliberately challenged their ability to routinely act together to efficiently achieve tactical, operational, and strategic objectives.

    “We started planning for Pluto Rising back in September before we arrived here in Europe,” said Capt. Mackenzie Grubbs, fire support officer, Headquarters Co., 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. “We essentially wanted to get our fire support systems working together with the shadow UAV and involve the Bulgarians to see how well we work with partner nations.”

    The exercise kicked off with the mortar platoon launching rounds from an elevated hilltop into targets several miles away identified by the shadow UAV.

    “We’re doing a joint mission with Bulgarians, essentially integrating fire support into the tanks maneuvering through objectives,” said 1st Lt. Christopher Lucero, mortar platoon leader, Headquarters Co., 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. “We have [U.S] tanks, we have Bulgarian tanks and we also have a Bulgarian artillery battery firing. My platoon is responsible for firing mortars in support of their maneuver.”

    The mortar platoon’s synchronized strikes suppressed the hypothetical enemy, which allowed the U.S. and Bulgarian tanks to advance through the vast, open terrain at will.

    “They were rehearsing maneuver tactics up the valley,” said Pfc. Ryan Licini, gunner, Headquarters Co., 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. “While they were doing that, we were providing support fire from our mortar position. Support fire keeps the enemy pinned down and in place. It’s cover that allows the moving element to move more freely.”

    Integrating the fires of tanks, mortars, and artillery required precise planning and execution in order to maintain the safety of everyone involved.

    “We did several rehearsals,” said Grubbs. “We had walkthroughs without actually firing and made sure that safety factors were implemented throughout the range. Both countries had a common knowledge of when and where we were firing.”

    Working across international borders presented a language barrier, but that was a surmountable hurdle when it came to safety. Star clusters were prepared to launch in case any issues surfaced and both nations understood that meant an immediate stop to all activity, said Grubbs.

    COVID-19 created additional safety concerns for all the military branches. The U.S. and its’ NATO allies have been deliberate in their efforts to create safe environments with a commitment to continue collective training.

    “Some of the mitigations that we implemented were to make sure everyone was always wearing a mask and social distancing when possible,” said Grubbs. “It’s important to keep training because you never know what might happen during an actual conflict. Making sure that we can work together under adverse conditions, no matter what they might be is what makes us lethal.”

    The exercise was safely completed with the integrated tank companies clearing approximately two miles of various enemy targets. Months of planning and one cloudy day of training resulted in an atmosphere of accomplishment.

    “I can say that the exercise was very beneficial for us to increase our interoperability with the U.S. Army,” said Ltc. Yanko Panayotkov, Senior Artillery Specialist, Bulgarian Land Component Headquarters. “The main objective of being able to execute a mission together with the tank platoon was achieved. It was a pleasure to work with this U.S. battalion and we plan to increase these types of training.”

    “Working with the Bulgarians gave us a chance to come to a new place and learn things that are relevant to our job that we do back home,” said Licini. “That’s everything I wanted to join the military for.”

    “As small as the exercise turned out to be, I think it proved a pretty big point,” said Grubbs. “It is possible for us to effectively work together anywhere.”



    Date Taken: 03.18.2021
    Date Posted: 03.23.2021 01:25
    Story ID: 391939
    Location: NOVO SELO, BG 

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