News: 115th FW airmen train with Polish air force
Story by Tech. Sgt. Kenya Shiloh
LASK AIR BASE, Poland - Nearly 100 airmen assigned to the 115th Fighter Wing, Wisconsin Air National Guard, arrived at Lask Air Base, Poland, to train in a joint theater security cooperation event with the Polish air force.
This event, hosted by the U.S. Aviation Detachment 1, is geared toward enhancing the skills of U.S. and Polish F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft pilots as they conduct simulated air combat scenarios with other aircraft to include MiG-29s and Su-22s.
"We brought six F-16s here to work on a partnership-building opportunity with the Polish air force," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Brian Parker, 176th Fighter Squadron commander assigned to the 115th FW.
"We're doing things like air combat maneuvers, basic fighter maneuvers and tactical intercepts," Parker said. "It's a building block approach so we'll start out with the basics and increase the tactics as we go through the two weeks; and then we'll go to doing individual ranges sets where we can see each other - kind of 'dog fighting.'"
Operations, maintenance and support airmen were able to start flying training sorties shortly after arriving thanks to the enduring presence of the 10 members of the 52nd Operations Group's Aviation Detachment 1 already in place before 115th FW's arrival.
"We have everything we need," Parker said. "The support structure is completely in place. Having an aviation detachment here that helps with the long term (coordination) of rotating fighter units like ours through here is set up to have a seamless operation ... we were able to start flying operations from day one flawlessly."
According to Parker, flying operations are going quite well. After completing the first two missions, U.S. and Polish pilots were able to come together to debrief and discuss the differences in their tactics. What they learned was that although each country's tactics are slightly different, they were able to mesh them together so that they're transparent as they continue to fly over the next two weeks.
Polish air force Col. Krystian Zięƈ, 32nd Tactical Air Base commander, said this is a unique opportunity for the United States and Poland to strengthen interoperability as NATO allies.
"Frankly speaking, the U.S. Air Force, as far as I'm concerned, is the best air force in the world," said Zięƈ. "If we have the opportunity to fly and train, we want to do that with the best."
Zięƈ said building a partnership capacity with countries like Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, and Croatia will make forces stronger.
"If we need a huge coalition going somewhere to make peace, we're going to have some good quality aircraft," he said. "Therefore, what we do here is important, because we are bringing the quality to a higher level."
This joint training event sets a milestone for the aviation detachment given that it's the first fighter rotation for the unit and the second rotation so far this year. The first unit to train here under the aviation detachment was a C-130J Super Hercules cargo aircraft unit based out of Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Training opportunities like these were made possible after former Polish Defense Minister Bogdan Klich signed a memorandum of understanding allowing the establishment of a U.S. Air Force aviation detachment in Poland.
"This is different from our first rotation from the standpoint that instead of an airlift asset, we have brought in a fighter asset to train with the Polish air force," said U.S. Air Force Maj. Matthew Spears, aviation detachment commander. "What we want to do is lay the foundation with one of our staunchest allies. We've trained together and we're now prepared to fight together. It's this type of training that takes place, having airmen on the ground interacting day-in-and-day-out that really strengthens that partnership."
The next fighter rotation is scheduled to take place in July where an F-16 flying from Aviano Air Base, Italy, will travel to Poland to conduct air-to-ground training with their Polish counterparts.