Happy anniversary, sister wing

Story and photos by Staff Sgt. Tyrona Lawson
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Brig. Gen. Mark Dillon, 86th Airlift Wing commander, visited Poland’s 3rd Airlift Wing at Powidz Air Base Tuesday, marking the one-year anniversary of the “sister wing” relationship between the two units.

The wings began working closely in 2008, when the Polish air force first entertained the idea of vastly improving their airlift capabilities by purchasing refurbished E-model C-130 aircraft from the U.S. inventory.

In June 2010, after Poland established a fleet of five C-130s, the two airlift units signed a letter of intention, legally making them sisters.

“I’m excited to come back a year after establishing our sister wing (relationship). This is an exciting time for us,” Dillon said. “It’s a friendly reminder of the wonderful work that (our two countries have) been in cooperation with for the last 10 years — in Iraq, in Afghanistan and humanitarian operations around the world.”

The two wings regularly train together, practicing airdrops, low-level flying and aeromedical evacuation. The purpose of the training is to prepare the two wings to respond cooperatively to emergencies in the European theater. Over time, camaraderie and friendly rivalry has developed between the flight crews of the two wings, improving performance on both sides. The next cooperative training is scheduled for October.

“This program is, for Polish armed forces, very important. We count on very good cooperation with the 86th Airlift Wing,” said Polish air force Col. pil. Slawomir Zakowski, 3rd AW commander. “We hope to not only develop a flying program but also a ground program. Our idea is to create a small Ramstein here in Powidz.”

With the addition of the C-130E, the 3rd AW has dramatically increased their global reach. So far this year, the wing has made more than 1,000 airdrops and has flown more than 14,000 hours.

During the visit, Zakowski gave Dillon an overview on the 3rd AW’s progress and new implementations developed over the course of the year, and future investments such as a cross docking cargo port, a garrison-roofed target range, and modernizing the airfield surface.

“We have a lot in common. It’s great to get an opportunity to get together,” Dillon said. “I look forward to continued cooperation in the future.”

The 3rd Airlift Brigade Command was officially formed in 2007 and later transformed into the 3rd Airlift Wing in 2009. Its main purpose is to organize and support logistic air transport and airborne operations. The wing also assists in medical evacuations and international search and rescue missions.

Powidz AB also utilizes aircraft such as the C-295M “CASA,” which is used for tactical operations, and the Mi-series transport helicopter.