Devil Brigade Soldiers showcase air defense capabilities


SHABLA, Bulgaria — Three teams of two Soldiers each, from the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, participated in Shabla 19, here, June 10-15, 2019. 

Shabla 19 is designed to improve readiness and interoperability between the Bulgarian Air Force, Navy and Land Forces, and the 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, U.S. Army Europe.

The Devil Brigade Soldiers were on site to train in Short-Range Air Defense (SHORAD) and showcase the Stinger Man-Portable Air Defense System (MANPADS) while the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment also displayed their credibility with the MANPADS and Avenger Air Defence System.

“SHORAD is our ability to engage a hostile aircraft in the immediate vicinity,” said Staff Sgt. Larry Kirby, squad leader with 3rd Battalion, 66th Armored Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. “Out here we have three qualified crews and they’re broken up into two man teams, a team chief and a gunner.”

The Devil Brigade sent 22 Soldiers to Fort Sill to train on the stinger missile system, said Capt. Eric Boeckers, air defense officer for 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. They came back and brought that knowledge with them to train other Soldiers and to serve as organic air defense assets for the brigade.

The MANPAD teams from 1st ABCT, have been preparing through several Table A gunneries and exercises and came here primarily for the live-fire portion. 

“We had two crews perform excellent and we got first time hits,” said Kirby. “No problems whatsoever, no lulls in the engagement sequence, [they] knew exactly what they were doing and very confident with the weapon system.”

Prior to Shabla 19, 1st ABCT has not fired a SHORAD or MANPAD system in over 20 years. Since then, these Devil Brigade Soldiers, are the first to fire and get confirmed training kills.

Exercises like this help at all levels, said Boeckers. At the squad and company level, the stinger and avenger teams are able to work side by side with the Bulgarians. At the higher levels, we’re able to see all of the various forces work together. 

When asked about what the stinger missile system brings to the table, Kirby had this to say, “It has that immediate response to an enemy air threat. We can immediately engage that air threat as soon as we see it, there’s no time delay in that response.”

The Devil Brigade is part of more than 6,000 U.S. regionally-allocated Soldiers in Germany, Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania, on a nine-month rotation, in support of Atlantic Resolve. Atlantic Resolve provides ready, combat-credible forces through multinational training and security cooperation activities.