Forging a lasting partnership

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Paul D. Gorman
  • 115th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Airmen from the Wisconsin Air National Guard's 115th Fighter Wing were granted a rare opportunity to engage one on one with their Polish counterparts Aug. 27 - Sept. 25, as part of U.S. Aviation Detachment Rotation 15-4 at Łask Air Base, Poland.

Hosted by the 52nd Operations Group, Detachment 1, the bilateral training event combined F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft and support personnel from the 115 FW with those of the 52nd Fighter Wing from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, to train with allied forces from Poland's 6th and 10th Fighter Squadrons.

While the opportunity was a first for many of the Airmen, the close relationship between the Wisconsin ANG and Polish air force is nothing new. Since 2013 members of the 115 FW have been exchanging professional expertise related to F-16 aircraft operations with Poland's 10 FS through the National Guard State Partnership Program.

"One of the goals for this deployment, as well as for the SPP, is to provide tactical level opportunities to integrate maintenance techniques and procedures," said U.S. Air Force Maj. Jason Crabb, deployed maintenance commander for the 115 FW. "Even before our aircraft arrived, [our maintenance personnel] were able to meet that objective for the Av-Det 15-4 rotation."

The 115 FW's participation in the exercise was highlighted by numerous opportunities to integrate with their Polish allies. When aircraft parts availability was in question, the 10th Fighter Squadron provided their Wisconsin counterparts with a critical replacement component to assure repairs could be accomplished in a timely manner; camaraderie between weapons specialists of the 115 FW and 10 FS culminated in a ground breaking weapons load competition; and joint weapons employment training included the first ever use of aerial laser targeting for guided munitions by a Polish F-16 pilot.

"I think the relationship we've established with our Polish allies continues to grow stronger each time we work together," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jon Kalberer," deployed commander of the 115 FW. "Each work area built on a previously established foundation allowing us to begin Av-Det Rotation 15-4 right where we left off.

According to Kalberer the entire deployment to Łask Air Base exemplified the Av-Det motto, 'Stronger Together.'

Opportunities to strengthen international bonds were not limited to Łask Air Base, as the ANG Airmen engaged in a cultural exchange with the students and faculty of nearby Gimnazjum NR 1 middle school in Konstantynów Łódzki. U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Chariann Agee, the 115 FW aviation resource manager, assisted Av-Det personnel to make the exchange possible. To Agee, the questions and eagerness displayed by the students truly punctuated the significance of the deployment.

By the end of Av-Det rotation 15-4, 115 FW maintenance personnel had generated 100 aircraft sorties without a single maintenance cancellation, providing the unit's F-16 pilots more than 170 hours of joint air to air and air to ground missions. But for the airmen involved, the true value of the training resided in whom they'd been training with. 

"The Av-Det provided us a chance to see how our active duty counterparts and Polish allies do business, allowing us to evaluate the efficiency of our own practices," Crabb said. "It was a fantastic opportunity for growth."