US, Polish military enhance partnerships through training

by Senior Airman Scott Saldukas
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Airmen from Team Ramstein traveled to the 33rd Air Base in Powidz, Poland, Feb. 4 to 12 for a joint training mission with Polish military forces.

More than 60 Airmen from the 86th Airlift Wing and 435th Air Ground Operations Wing participated in the week-long off-site training aimed at sharing knowledge, strengthening bonds and building partnerships between the units.

“We have two C-130J Super Hercules here in Poland to build partnership capacity with our Polish allies,” said Capt. William Hurst, 37th Airlift Squadron central scheduling officer in charge. “We are also here to conduct necessary training for the many different U.S. military units involved.”

In addition to valuable aircrew training like tactical landings and night vision flying, members focused on other specialties like aircraft maintenance, fuels, radar warning, cargo off-loading, parachute rigging and airdrop operations.

“My primary mission in Poland was to mitigate issues that often arise when integrating typical C-130J tactical procedures into a convoluted airspace and air traffic control system,” said Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Vogel, 435th Air Mobility Squadron contingency air traffic controller. “To ensure our aircraft are safe and familiar with the procedures for flight in this kind of system, it’s critical to engage in face-to-face communications with on-duty air traffic controllers who can offer real-time insight, experience and solutions.”

Approximately 100 personnel from both Polish and American military forces participated in the week-long event, as well as several Polish and American civilians.

“Poland is one of several countries we work with to further USAFE’s building partnership capacity mission within NATO,” said Lt. Col. Toby Sernel, 37th Airlift Squadron commander. “By exercising with Poland’s Air Force and Army, we not only further ties with our ally, but we also strengthen the U.S. and Poland’s militaries — exchange ideas, share resources, prepare each other for combat.”

Though BPC events like these are a core part of U.S. military operations in Europe, it was the first time Colonel Sernel had the opportunity to participate.

“I am very excited about the opportunity to train with the Polish military and stretch my world view just a little more. It’s good for us to continue to think outside the box — a term possibly overrated, yet so applicable in the way we do things,” said the colonel. “We will continue to make this a lasting relationship of mutual support and mutual respect.”

And it’s not just a relationship based on training. In 2009, the Polish Air Force received the first of five C-130Es from the U.S. Air Force. Then, in June 2010, the Polish Air Force’s 3rd Airlift Wing and the 86th AW formalized their relationship by becoming sister wings.

Over the past year, Team Ramstein has continued to build upon the partnership through various events in Poland and at Ramstein.

“It’s efforts like this off-station training exercise in Poland that showcase our ability not only to operate outside our comfort zone, but to do so in such a way that we influence our partners positively, leave a lasting impression, and foster communication, training and feedback that enhances both of our capabilities,” Sergeant Vogel said. “It is already apparent that we cannot win the current fight on our own, with our own resources and experiences. We will have to rely more and more on the experiences we’ve gained through exercises like these, executed in a joint coalition environment.”