The paratroopers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade added another battle honor to their legacy this week – a Bulgarian olive oil factory!


Soldiers with the 173rd Airborne Brigade parachute May 11, 2021, from an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III during Swift Response 21 at Cheshnegirovo Air Base, Bulgaria. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. David W. Carbajal


Exercise Swift Response 21 got off to a good start for the 173rd Airborne Brigade. They, along with more than 7,000 paratroopers from nine other nations, have been conducting a series of joint forcible entry exercises in Estonia, Bulgaria and Romania as part of the larger Exercise Defender Europe 21. All of which is designed to reassure citizens of Eastern European countries that the US and its NATO allies stand ready to help defend them in the event of aggression from the East.

Things didn’t go quite according to plan though for one group of soldiers from the 173rd who were conducting enter-and-clear exercises across multiple bunkers and structures at the decommissioned Cheshnegirovo airfield in Bulgaria. They stormed into a building on the airfield that they thought was part of the training area, only to discover that it was actually a functioning, civilian-run, olive oil factory!

In true airborne fashion the men drove on anyways and completed their mission of searching and securing the building before stopping to consolidate and take stock of their position. No live ammunition was used during the assault and no one was injured – it is not known however if any (or how many) bottles of Bulgarian olive oil were damaged in the action. Also, no information has been received at this end about the reactions from the staff – but the owner has allegedly threatened to sue the US government, and the President of Bulgaria also issued a statement criticizing the action. It seems that some of the old skool COMBLOC mentality still lives on in some quarters…

At any rate, I hope that the troops liberated some bottles while they were there, and I look forward to seeing their reviews of Bulgarian Olive Oil online soon. 😉