Nearly 20 U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 480th Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, deployed to Souda Bay, Greece, for bilateral training with the Hellenic air force Aug. 11-23.
The Hellenic air force is Greece’s air force, and the flying training deployment includes large force training events aimed to gauge the compatibility between the two nations with a focus on strengthening joint readiness.
“We very rarely go into combat just by ourselves, so this gives us an opportunity to go in with our NATO partners and train in the large force exercises and see all the different moving parts that happen,” said Air Force Capt. Taylor Blevins, the 480th Fighter Squadron chief of weapons and tactics. “We gain some knowledge from our NATO partners, they gain some knowledge from us, and overall we gain some experience in airmanship working together.”
Souda Bay is located on the island of Crete southeast of Athens. One of the station’s primary functions is to support airborne operations in this strategically critical area of the world. Throughout the next two weeks, the Hellenic air force’s 115th Combat Wing pilots will train with their U.S. counterparts here to enhance their capabilities with different flying roles: air-to-air combat, suppression of enemy air defense, air interdiction, counter-air and close air support.
The U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa, the command that governs all U.S. air assets in Europe with the duty to train, equipped and deployed the combat-ready Airmen. Their posture is to continuously hone skills during peacetime, poise to address any security threats, and ensure regional peace and stability.
“Working with our NATO partners now allows us to train with these guys in a training environment,” Blevins said. “So the next time we’re working with them ó potentially in a combat environment ó we’ve already worked with them, already kind of seen their act and know what to expect. It makes us more ready for the battlefield, which obviously helps our combatant commanders and makes us more lethal as an overall fighting force.
“The training itself is going to be invaluable,” he continued, “and it’s going to be a great opportunity for us and the squadron.”