POWIDZ AIR BASE, Poland — The sky wept — a flood from the heavens that seemed poised to wash the world away. The water, cold and unforgiving, soaked everything through to its core.
The heavy patter of rainfall, which marked time as a rhythmic interlude, was suddenly interrupted by the discordant symphony of four synchronized propellers cutting through the ominous gray clouds.
Aptly referred to as “Super Hercules,” the colossal C-130J powered through the skies above Powidz Air Base, Poland, Aug. 11 like a winged demigod. From the nearby operations building, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Patrick Driscoll, 37th Airlift Squadron detachment commander at Powidz, watched the aircraft with vested interest.
“He’s coming in for a ‘touch-and-go,’” Driscoll said, referring to a maneuver that calls for a pilot to land an aircraft and immediately take off without coming to a full stop. “It’s really incredible to watch the vapor trails from the propellers during a rainstorm.”
Almost on cue, the C-130’s wheel contacted the ground, kicking up a cascading wall of water in its wake. However, instead of slowing the turboprop engines, the pilot increased the throttle and coaxed the nearly 113-foot metal hulk down the runway at an unbelievable speed. For a few seconds, the thrust from the tips of the propeller blades create corkscrews of water vapor through the humid air, which become visible to the naked eye — appearing as dancing wisps of light.
“The vapor trails are one of those rare things you get to see up close during this deployment,” Driscoll said. “Everything has to come together perfectly for it to happen.”
Similar to the vortices created by the C-130, Ramstein Airmen have been afforded the perfect opportunity to come together with NATO partners during a flying training deployment throughout the region. Based at Powidz, and under the banner of Operation Atlantic Resolve, this ongoing mission demonstrates the United States’ commitment to the collective security and support of European partners.
“This truly is a tremendous opportunity for our aircrews to hone their expeditionary skills from a forward operating location,” Driscoll said. “Our presence here allows the United States and NATO to build deeper partnerships across the continent.”
The broad military training areas of Poland and the neighboring Baltic States offer U.S. service members an opportunity to work with host nations and exponentially enhance cooperative capabilities.
“The flying training deployment consists of low-level flight training, landings at unimproved landing zones, airdrop training and partnership building events with our regional allies,” he said. “The current, enduring presence at Powidz makes it possible for the U.S. Air Force to support these multinational exercises from a regional hub.”
As an added benefit, the operations at Poland serve to enhance the U.S.’s continuous air presence in the region, assuring NATO allies of the commitment to collective defense. The operations and missions go beyond skill improvement and partner building; they speak to the core of what bonds the U.S. to its European allies.
“This is much more than a training deployment,” Driscoll said. “This is a chance to bolster our collective capabilities and better understand the strength that comes from working together. It is only through these strengthened relationships with our allies that we are able to fully demonstrate our shared belief in a peaceful, stable and secure Europe.”