News: USAF builds partnership with Baltic states
Story by Senior Airman Jonathan Stefanko
RIGA, Latvia - Airmen from the 435th Contingency Response Group arrived at Lielvarde Air Base, Latvia in Europe, June 16, 2014, to participate in the Air Force-specific portion to Saber Strike 2014.
Saber Strike is a regularly scheduled, reoccurring exercise that promotes the enduring commitment the United States and other allied nations have with the Baltic States.
"This is a capability we have not had the opportunity really train on in approximately six years," said Master Sgt. William Mendez, 435th CRG contingency weather forecaster. "Coming to a foreign air base and truly starting from step in making it operable for our guys is a great experience."
During the final week of Saber Strike 2014 the 435th CRG, in conjunction with the 37th Airlift Squadron, trained on the full capabilities to open the Latvian air base. They also trained with Latvian and Estonian service members on airfield operations, command and control of air and space forces, weather support, protection of operational forces, aircraft maintenance and aerial port services.
Exercising these unique capabilities with partner nations represents a step toward further development of the air base's infrastructure and operations that could be used by the United States and other allied nations, stated Lt. Col. Andrew Roberts, bilateral affairs office, U.S. Embassy - Latvia.
"In many situations it's almost a peer experience," Roberts said. "We're giving to them just as we are getting from them. So those lessons learned could come back into the U.S. Air Force structure and we can utilize them at our own bases."
Building upon a foundation of friendship that started in 1991, the U.S. and Baltic states trained together to learn various techniques that ranged from transporting cargo to properly marshaling an aircraft.
"Working with our allied nations was not only a great teaching experience but we also learned various procedures they use which we can implement during joint missions," Mendez said. "From sharing combat life-saver skills, jumping together from a C-130 J-model and for the first time, participating in sling-load operations with the Latvian counterparts.