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Spangdahlem pilots fly missions in Romania

by 2nd Lt. Shannon Collins
Romanian-American Training Exercise 2005 Public Affairs

8/1/2005 - BABADAG TRAINING AREA, Romania (AFPN)  -- About 160 Airmen from the 81st Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, recently conducted the first Air Force fighter training mission in Constanta, Romania.

The two-week exercise that ended July 31 aligned with Romanian-American Training Exercise 2005, a joint and combined effort with the U.S. Army and the Romanian Ministry of National Defense.

Nearly 1,500 Soldiers trained here while the 160 Airmen operated jets from nearby Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base. The exercise provided Airmen and Soldiers an opportunity to anchor ties and to improve alliance partnerships within NATO.

“As part of the secretary of defense’s initiative to enhance the department’s global posture, European-based forces are looking east for operational training opportunities,” said Col. Scott West, 52nd Fighter Wing vice commander. “We’re conducting more training with our newest NATO partners located in the former Soviet Union. We want to prepare for operations together as a NATO team.”

As part of the training mission, A-10 Thunderbolt II pilots from the 81st FS flew against MiG-21s in Romanian territory.

“It was tough because they were kind of hard to see, but it was exciting,” said Capt. Brian Miller, an 81st FS pilot.

Captain Miller and other pilots from the 81st FS had the chance to sit in MiG-21s during a July 29 visit to the Romanian air force’s 86th Air Base.

“It was pretty neat -- you’re sitting in a MiG-21 that will be airborne with a MiG-21 pilot within days,” he said. “This was an arm of the Soviet Union. These pilots were flying before the Soviet Union fell. They have quite a bit of perspective.”

During the debriefing, after Captain Miller and others flew against the MiGs, the pilots and commanders had a chance to watch each other’s videotapes.

“I never thought I would see the day when I would be sitting in my debrief facility watching an American put his videotape in our machine, and we were able to watch it,” said Romanian air force Gen. Victor Strimbeanu. “We are starting to see cooperation and teamwork build.”

The general also said that U.S. forces should take the opportunity to train against equipment formerly used by the Soviet Union because this equipment is used worldwide and can be used against Americans.

The combined and joint training has been successful, Colonel West said.

“It’s been an outstanding, positive, cooperative relationship between U.S. forces and the Romanian military,” he said. “They are very professional, and I can’t say enough positive things about our ability to train here in Romania in a variety of different training scenarios.”

While U.S. pilots were training with Romanian pilots, firefighters from the 52nd Civil Engineer Squadron trained civilian Romanian firefighters on scenarios they face when pilots have problems ejecting or when the cockpit catches on fire.

Senior Airman Sean Hawkins, an 81st Aircraft Maintenance Unit avionics specialist, was excited to share his first temporary duty assignment with joint forces.

“It’s a great opportunity to promote teamwork amongst other nations, allies,” he said. “It’s a great experience getting to come out here and seeing their aircraft and getting to talk to some of their technicians. The people here are very friendly and helpful. I’d love to come back.”

“As soon as we got off the plane and went to a briefing, the Romanian base commander said, ‘We’ve been waiting for you since 1945,’” said Master Sgt. Michael Smith, 81st AMU production superintendent. “It really struck home, all of the years of communism they endured. It was great to get that kind of reception.

“When I (joined the military,) Romania was our archenemy, along with the Soviet Union,” he said. “For them to open their arms up and let us come into their country and do this is amazing. Hopefully, we’ll get to do more missions like these in the future.”

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