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“We sincerely apologize to the business and its employees. We always learn from these exercises and are fully investigating the cause of this mistake. We will implement rigorous procedures to clearly define our training areas and prevent this type of incident in the future,” U.S. Army Europe and Africa said in a release.
Exercise Swift Response, an element of NATO's Defender Europe 21 exercises, involves forces of the United States, Bulgaria, Estonia and Romania in multiple missions across Europe. Swift Response 21 involved more than 7,000 Paratroopers from 10 NATO nations.
As part of these drills held between May 10-14, U.S. soldiers assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade conducted a training exercise to simulate seizing and securing the Cheshnegirovo decommissioned airfield in Bulgaria.
During the course of this exercise, soldiers simulated entering and clearing multiple bunkers and structures across the airfield. On May 11, soldiers entered and cleared a building next to the airfield that they believed was part of the training area, but that was occupied by Bulgarian civilians operating a private business. While the release did not mention what business, reports said it was an olive oil factory.
No weapons were fired at any time during this interaction.
"It is inadmissible to have the lives of Bulgarian citizens disturbed and put at risk by military formations, whether Bulgarian or belonging to a foreign army," commented Bulgarian President Rumen Radev.
"The exercises with our allies on the territory of Bulgaria should contribute to building security and trust in collective defense, not breed tension," Radev said.