86th Airlift Wing deploys to Bucharest

Darlene Cowsert
435th Air Base Wing
Public Affairs

***image1***Nearly 140 representatives of all four groups of the 86th Airlift Wing deployed to Bucharest, Romania, recently for Blue Knight II, a three-week joint training opportunity with the Romanian Air Force.
Operating out of Otopeni Airfield, a joint military and civilian airport, the 37th Airlift Squadron is flying day and night missions to increase pilot proficiency in low-level and night vision goggle flying.
“This opportunity to partner with one of our newest NATO countries and to work with the Romanian Air Force gives us a tremendous opportunity to learn from each other, as well as enjoy the benefit of their low level air space structure,” said Capt. Pete Larsen, mission commander.
Romanian Air Force pilots assigned to the 90th Airlift Base at Otopeni also fly C-130s like the 37th AS, and are flying as observers on each of the missions. They have found there is much to learn from the more experienced Ramstein-based pilots. “The U.S. pilots are more experienced because they have the benefit of more training, and we learn something new every time we fly with them,” said Romanian Air Force Capt. Florin Vasoti. “Their navigation equipment is different from ours, and we can learn much from observing their procedures, particularly during the low level flights.” Captain Vasoti said even sitting in on pre-flight briefings is extremely valuable, noting that the U.S. pilots brief with much more detail, so he and his fellow Romanian fliers learn more about the importance of information and why it is covered with such detail.
Supporting the 37th AS are representatives of the 86th Maintenance Group, Operations Group, Contingency Response Group, and the Air and Space Communications Group.
Maintenance people work 12-hour shifts to ensure each of the four C-130s is ready for daily missions. While they typically perform their duties the same in any location, the increased flying hours and the low level flying, in particular, presents more challenge, said Senior Master Sgt. Paul White (TITLE).
“Each aircraft is in the air about 10 hours a day,” Sergeant White said, “and the low level flying works the engines harder and puts more stress on the wings, so we have to inspect the wings carefully for cracks and stress after every 100 hours of flying time.”
The 1st Combat Communications Squadron is providing robust communications and networking services with the use of a new Deployable Independent Communications Element (DICE) package. “DICE allows us to do more with less equipment and people,” said Senior Airman Anthony Austin. The package is lighter and leaner, which means less cargo space is required for transport, and fewer people are needed to setup and maintain the communication links. The communications team needed only 7 tons of equipment to take to Bucharest, in contract to 15 tons required for a similar deployment to Bulgaria last year, he said.
Seven specialty codes within the 86th Contingency Response Group are responsible for running the airfield during night operations, ground handling of aircraft during low and no-light operations, loading and unloading aircraft while engines run, and tracking airdrops. “This is an opportunity for us maintain currency training requirements,” said 1st Lt. William Stayberg. “The team here is also testing a new information system that allows them to talk to each other by headset, as opposed to using hand signals to communicate in the past.”
Most of the members of the wing will return at exercise mid-point on May 9, with replacements filling their place.
According to Captain Larsen, approximately 80 sorties are expected to be completed by the end of Blue Knight II. The wing will have established 120 day visual, low-level routes, more than 130 night vision goggle low level routes, 250 airdrops, 110 night vision goggle air-land events and 38 night vision goggle ground operations.

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