***image2***Marking a first in Croatian Air Force history, nine crewmembers along with their AN-32B aircraft touched down on Ramstein April 13 for a five-day visit to test their tactical control and navigation procedures prior to flying support missions in Afghanistan.
While here, they met with NATO and the U.S. Air Forces in Europe Operations Division to discuss current tactics and multiple TACAN approaches to test recent maintenance upgrades on the aircraft.
According to Maj. Jason Terry, USAFE Chief of Airlift Weapons and Tactics, who organized the visit, this was an excellent opportunity for the Croatians and the 37th Airlift Squadron members to interact.
“Captain (Brian) Choate and the other 37th aircrew members discussed their experiences in the Air Force and what the Croatians could expect to see on their upcoming missions,” he said.
The United States and Croatia have an acquisition and cross service agreement that fosters mutual use of services and bases which the U.S. has already utilized.
Major Terry said this event “is significant in that it illustrates to the Croatians the other end of the agreement.”
While Croatia is not a member of NATO yet, Major Terry said their participation in fighting the Global War on Terrorism, by supplying troops and flying missions in Afghanistan brings them one step closer to full NATO membership status.
In addition to the training, the Croatians toured aircraft and facilities such as a C-130, a C-17, the 37th AS, the control tower and the base exchange.
Capt. Brian Choate, an evaluator pilot from the 86th Operations Group flew with the Croatians as an observer and was there to assist with any questions about local operating procedures.
“It was incredibly interesting to see how another Air Force does business,” he said. “The sharing of our vast differences between our forces has given each of us tools and experiences to build upon. Additionally, this sharing of experience and knowledge between two allies brings about incredible camaraderie and friendship.”
The benefits of the experience and lessons learned were felt on both sides. “This trip has improved the overall mission success of future Croatian flights in support of international operations to include Afghanistan,” said Maj. Doug Brock, U.S. Embassy Zagreb Air Attaché.
“However, I would prefer to highlight the support from the fantastic Airmen assigned there at Ramstein who were critical to the success of this first-ever flight by the Croatian Air Force to a U.S. base.”