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Airmen in Norway contribute to NATO mission

by Staff Sgt. Laura Holzer
Det. 4, Air Force News Agency

4/3/2007 - STAVANGER AIR BASE, Norway (AFNEWS) -- In the southwest corner of Norway, there's a small community of Airmen stationed at Stavanger Air Base who support U.S. military members working for NATO.

The 426th Air Base Squadron helps U.S. forces who work in the Joint Warfare Center, which trains NATO leaders and conducts exercises to enhance NATO missions and interoperability.

"Those 35 to 40 officers and enlisted who work for NATO for the United States need to be supported in many ways," said Brig. Gen. Philip M. Ruhlman, the JWC chief of staff. "So to have an Air Force squadron here that can specifically take care of their needs -- everything from personnel, to finance, to logistics, to family medical issues -- it's absolutely essential."

The squadron provides the same capabilities as a mission support group but in one- or two-deep positions. Master Sgt. Martin Patterson is the Military Personnel Flight and Education Office. He handles everything from assignments, ID cards, re-enlistments to tuition assistance.

Senior Master Sgt. Christopher Rhoney is the medical technician overseeing medical care, the pharmacy, public health, referrals and records. Other sections of the squadron include the post office, communications, chaplain, legal services, force protection, housing, transportation management office and supply.

"The reason teamwork is crucial here in the 426th is because most of our positions are one deep with each person having two to three additional duties," said Master Sgt. Jason Cruse, acting first sergeant and superintendent of the communications flight. "If one person goes TDY, takes leave or is sick, another member needs to be able to fill in for them. For example, our communications maintenance is completely trained in operating the post office."

Although the squadron doesn't perform NATO training like their customers in the JWC, they are still a crucial part of its mission.

"We're not two separate families," General Ruhlman said. "It's not (like) we have the NATO U.S. forces family here and the 426th is over there. We are all one family."

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