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Euro-NATO committee has eyes on future

by John Ingle
80th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

4/10/2008 - SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFPN) -- The spring Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program's Steering Committee completed its weeklong discussions April 4 regarding the future of the program, including its syllabus, budget and infrastructure.

The committee also said goodbye to six-year chairman Royal Netherlands Air Force Air Commodore Peter Berlijn and welcomed new chairman, Italian Brig. Gen. Franco Marsiglia.

During the meetings, Spainish officials confirmed the Spanish air force would begin sending two students in the fall to participate in T-38C Talon training, an option that wasn't available in prior years.

The entry-exit possibilities of ENJJPT 2008, the name of the new syllabus, gives NATO partners the flexibility to tailor training based on their respective country's needs, said Col. David Petersen, the commander of the 80th Flying Training Wing and ENJJPT.

"It's great to have a partner back participating at a higher level," the colonel said of Spain's confirmation. "We expect more partners to participate."

An increase in participation isn't just about getting slots filled. Colonel Petersen said the program also creates an atmosphere that makes an easier transition to real-world events.

"Coalition operations is the name of the game," he said. "The United States has been engaged in war for the last 17 years. We haven't done it alone."

Air Commodore Berlijn agreed, adding that if countries are going to fight and operate together, they should train together.

"The training of a pilot is a very formative period of (his) life," he said. "You will always remember those (years). It's in your blood -- in your bones."

In addition to discussions about the syllabus, the committee also approved the fiscal 2009 budget of about $300 million, which includes funds for the installation of shelters for the newly-arrived T-6A Texan II.

Mother Nature might have provided the committee's deciding factor April 3 as thunderstorms rolled through the area, some producing hail up to the size of softballs, according to the National Weather Service in Norman, Okla.

"I think it was a good exclamation point," Colonel Petersen said. The colonel said the budget allowed for the sheltering of all T-6As by 2009.

General Marsiglia, also the Italian air force academy commander, spent the week observing the committee, the program and Sheppard AFB's surrounding communities. He wasted little time in sharing what his role would be as the chairman.

"My new task is to make this program more attractive," he said, adding that he would examine ways to improve the program and increase participation. "Future aircraft need new pilots and training."

Air Commodore Berlijn said he's confident in his successor's ability to lead the program into the future. He said his experience as an Italian Air Force leader and background will serve him well as part of ENJJPT.

"He will (continue to work on) some of the areas of attention that we've identified," the air commodore said.

Air Commodore Berlijn struck the head table with a gavel and handed it to General Marsiglia, signifying the change in leadership. He said he was proud to be selected to lead the organization and that it is a "fantastic program."

"(It's) so rewarding," he said. "So fun. I will miss it for sure."

The next steering committee meeting will be at Sevilla, Spain, in the fall. Sheppard hosts the spring session annually.

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