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Multinational Strategic Airlift Capability supports NATO committee visit to Afghanistan

by 1st Lt. J.D. Griffin
U.S. Air Forces in Europe Public Affairs

10/16/2009 - RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany (AFNS) -- The newly formed multinational Heavy Airlift Wing recently provided the NATO Military Committee valuable airlift into Afghanistan for an opportunity to meet with Afghan and International Security Assistance Force leaders as well as their national contingents there.

The HAW, based at Papa Air Base, Hungary, flew one of its three C-17 Globemaster IIIs into Kabul with military representatives from all 28 NATO member states as well as those from the 14 non-NATO nations who also contribute forces to ISAF.

"The crew was fantastic, the mission went as scheduled, and the many members who had never flown on a C-17 were absolutely floored by the capabilities of the aircraft," said Brig. Gen. David Petersen, deputy U.S. military representative to the NATO Military Committee. "It was absolutely a home run."

While in Afghanistan, the representatives received briefings on recent political and military operational developments. The visit also included meetings with Hanif Atmar, Afghan Minister of the Interior; Abdul Wardak, Afghan Minister of Defense; Kai Eide, the U.N. Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan; and Col. Peter Horst, Deputy of the European Union Police mission.

The successful arrival and departure of the representatives is just one of the growing number of missions accomplished by the Strategic Airlift Capability available to the 12 member nations of the HAW. The HAW has already flown missions to Kosovo and a previous mission to Afghanistan.

"This is an unprecedented milestone for these 12 nations," said HAW commander, U.S. Air Force Col. John Zazworsky, in a previous article on the new unit. "They've shared a common need for strategic airlift, yet they've each faced the financial obstacle of independently acquiring a heavy airlifter. Now, they collectively own an amazing machine that will serve them well."

The HAW includes NATO member nations Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and the U.S., as well as Partnership for Peace nations Finland and Sweden.

"Since September 2008 when the consortium's memorandum of understanding went into effect, we've tirelessly worked to build from scratch what's essentially a multinational air force -- without a real template of any kind," the colonel explained.

The nations' varying investments in the SAC Program dictate their proportional share of the flying hours as well as their proportional contribution of personnel, said Lt. Col. Richard Clark, SAC operations support officer, U.S. Air Forces in Europe. For instance, the U.S. has provided roughly 30 percent of the funding, will use 30 percent of the annual flying hours and has committed 41 Airmen, or roughly 30 percent of the HAW's 131 total positions.

The first SAC C-17 Globemaster III was delivered to Papa Air base on July 27, 2009, and the second C-17 arrived Sept. 21, 2009. The third aircraft arrived this month and completes the programmed fleet.

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