Sister airlift squadrons grow partnerships

by Lt. Col.
76th Airlift Squadron commander

Thirty-five Airmen with the 76th Airlift Squadron crossed the English Channel Jan. 30 to engage with the Airmen from the 32nd British Royal Air Force Squadron. The one-hour flight marked the second ever engagement for the sister Distinguished Visitor airlift squadrons and provided a forum to build upon their growing partnership.

Though their lexicons differed, their love of flying and their commitment to the mission were identical. The British and American Airmen walked the flightline and hangars at Royal Air Force Northolt, United Kingdom, to discuss their aircraft and crew duties.

Wing Commander Steve Pitcher, commander of No. 32, regaled the allied crowd with the history of the squadron, which was formed in 1916. Interestingly enough, the squadron preceded the formation of the Royal Air Force by nearly three years. No. 32 has seen action in both world wars and famously during the Battle of Britain. In 1995, it was merged with the Queen’s Flight and became the 32nd British Royal Air Force  Squadron.

A 76th AS spokesman and C-40 pilot Capt. Steve Schnoebelen said that “although the 76th Airlift Squadron provides DV airlift, it has not yet carried anyone as high-ranking as the queen.”

The British and American airlift squadrons are fairly unique within their respective military services as they each operate three separate aircraft types to provide airlift to their nations’ military and civilian leaders.

The 76th Airlift Squadron, the U.S. Air Force’s largest and most diverse operational support airlift squadron, flies the C-40B to support large-team Combatant Commander travel, the C-20H for four-star support and the C-21A for other high ranking officials and support missions.

The 32nd squadron flies the BAE 146 to support the queen and prime minister, the BAE 125 to support general officers equivalents and the Agusta 109 helicopter for shorter trips in England.

Support personnel from each squadron took time to compare and contrast their contributions to the readiness of their squadrons.

Maj. D.J. Blakemore, 76th Airlift Squadron mission commander, said the military-to-military engagement was a “brilliant opportunity to discuss tactics, techniques and procedures between Airmen.”

For many of the 76th support personnel, the trip marked the first time they had flown in the squadron’s aircraft. After watching the C-40Bs takeoff and climb out from the flight deck jump seat for the return to Ramstein, Senior Airman Lindsey Tompkins, 76th AS aviation resource management journeyman, noted it was “the best thing I’ve ever seen.”

Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill once remarked in 1940, “There is only one thing worse than fighting with allies, and that is fighting without them.”

Since the Cold War, British, American and other NATO Airmen have continued to wrestle with the challenges of coalition warfare and have found their greatest success comes when they are shoulder-to-shoulder.

 The men and women of the 76th Airlift Squadron and the 32nd British Royal Air Force Squadron couldn’t agree more.