Air Force, Army train with German sister units

by Capt. John Ross
Ramstein Public Affairs

Most people who fly on a C-130 crew know they are not on the fast-track to becoming a celebrity.

But in the skies surrounding Wunstorf Air Base, Germany, two Ramstein aircrews discovered just what the missing piece to stardom was – all they needed was a German pilot on board, operating their radios.

“Because we had the Germans with us, they were able to coordinate low-level flying we wouldn’t be able to do on our own,” said Tech. Sgt. Jay Mitchell, 37th Airlift Squadron instructor flight engineer. “We did low approaches to seven or eight different airfields so they could see the C-130 at each local airport.”

At every airfield, people lined the runway to take pictures, or to just watch the Hercules go by.

“It certainly feels like we’re celebrities, the way they’re treating us,” said Sergeant Mitchell.

The week of May 11, two Ramstein C-130s, accompanied by jumpmasters from the Army’s 5th Quartermaster Company, visited Wunstorf to train with their respective sister units.

No one could remember the last time American C-130s and Germany’s equivalent, the C-160, had shared the skies.

“We never flew together, in my remembrance,” said Capt. Guenther Lauterbach, a C-160 instructor pilot for the 1st Squadron, from the German Air Force’s 62nd Luft Transport Group. “We had some social events in the partnership, which has lasted more than 20 years. For the future, we will try to fly together more.”

The U.S. Army’s 5th Quartermaster Company officially renewed their partnership with Germany’s 272nd Airborne Support Battalion within the last month, said Chief Warrant Officer 2 David Fabunan.

“We’ve been jumping together for quite some time – probably a couple years now,” he said. “We have a good relationship now, and I think it’ll be better in the future.”

Because German jumpers use the same equipment and procedures as Americans, they look just like them when they jump, he said.

“Even if we have the same exact procedures, we gain a better sense of camaraderie,” Chief Fabunan said.

The flyers gained more than that, taking close looks at each other’s aircraft for the first time.

“Yesterday we did a cross sharing. We went through the entire airplane,” said Sergeant Mitchell, who hosted a German flight engineer on his C-130. “Then we did the same thing on the 160. It was interesting to see just how similar the two aircraft are. We could probably swap planes and be perfectly fine.”

He also found that similar systems weren’t the only commonalities.

“They fight the same battles every day for tails available, training and everything else,” Sergeant Mitchell said. “It was interesting to see that a different aircraft, in a different nation’s air force, still has the exact same challenges we do day to day.”

Looking ahead, Ramstein’s new J-model C-130s will likely play a large role in future interactions between the flying squadrons.

“We are very interested in the J-model, because it has a full glass cockpit,” Captain Lauterbach said.

The German Air Force is also working on an improved tactical airlifter to be built by Airbus, which will have many similarities to the J-model.

“Our new plane should also have a glass cockpit,” the captain said.

As the week came to a close, many people on both sides wished the training event would continue for a second week.

“I’ve done several different theater security cooperation events, and this is by far the best one. The flying out here has been phenomenal,” Sergeant Mitchell said. “I think with the kind of reception we’ve had, these inter-flights will be more regular. Hopefully we can get them to come down to Ramstein and do the same thing.”