Partnerships matter

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Maj. Alessio Battistella, left, 29th Attack Squadron MQ-9 Reaper instructor pilot, and Senior Master Sgt. Andrea Orsi, 29th ATKS MQ-9 instructor sensor operator, pose for a photo Oct. 2, 2020, on Holloman Air Force Base, N.M. Battistella and Orsi have been training students on Holloman for two years. (Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Adrian Salazar)
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Maj. Alessio Battistella, 29th Attack Squadron, MQ-9 Reaper instructor pilot, and Senior Master Sgt. Andrea Orsi, 29th ATKS MQ-9 instructor sensor operator, both members of the Italian air force and former students here, are now instructor evaluators for future MQ-9 aircrew.

Battistella and Orsi are part of the Military Personnel Exchange Program and have been stationed at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., for two years. They are here to supervise Italian MQ-9 aircrew students attending courses.

Holloman is the U.S. Air Force’s premiere MQ-9 Reaper training base, and for that reason students from different branches and different air forces come to study here.

“We get pilots and sensor operators from Italy,” said Capt. Davy Braxton, 29th ATKS MQ-9 instructor pilot. “They help us and we train them to be instructors, and in exchange we send people to Italy and they fly with them over there.”

The MPEP allows service members the opportunity to integrate into military units of foreign allies through a one-for-one exchange of personnel.

Maj. Alessio Battistella, 29th Attack Squadron MQ-9 Reaper instructor pilot, teaches a student pilot inside the ground control station during a simulated mission, Oct. 2, 2020, on Holloman Air Force Base, N.M. Battistella is stationed at Holloman to supervise and instruct both Holloman and Italian aircrew. (Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Adrian Salazar)

“We’ve been in this career field for many, many years now,” said Battistella. “It’s surprising to find out that the techniques, tactics, and procedures are very similar to Italy allowing us to really be interoperable.”

While they spent time learning from their peers becoming better instructor pilots they also picked up additional duties just like any other member of the 29th ATKS.

“The agreement was to come purely to be pilot and sensor operator instructors,” said Battistella. “But we thought, ‘Okay what’s the point of being here, having this nice opportunity to give and take, and not giving back.’”

Those additional duties have led them to both win quarterly awards ahead of their peers.

Airmen from the 29th Attack Squadron step out onto the flight line prior to a simulated flight, Oct. 2, 2020, on Holloman Air Force Base, N.M. When instructors and students are in the process of moving into the ground control station it is called stepping. (Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Adrian Salazar)

“They came over here to learn how to be formal instructors, but they’re not only doing that, they’re accelerating,” said Braxton. “They are accelerating above and beyond their peers.”

While at Holloman accelerating above their peers they get the opportunity to see different approaches to common problems or just a different cultural mentality.

“For me it’s the experience living every day with different people, who have a different mindset, in a different society,” said Orsi. “They call it an exchange program and that’s exactly what it is. We are learning so much and I’m sure the members sent to Italy are learning a lot there.”

Also, being stationed at Holloman allows personnel from partner and allied nations to integrate and train alongside Airmen. 

“One thing I like about the U.S. system is the way that you approach the family problem I mean, it shouldn’t be a problem,” said Battistella. “Once you in process to a new base, a big focus is not only on making you feel comfortable within the new environment, but making sure that your family is in a nice spot and has all the attention and support from the other spouses or family centers.”

That system, along with a different work pace, allows Battistella to spend more time doing things he enjoys doing.

Airmen from the 29th Attack Squadron sit in a pre-brief prior to a simulated flight, Oct. 2, 2020, on Holloman Air Force Base, N.M. The pre-brief is used for instructors to go over the mission before stepping into the ground control station. (Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Adrian Salazar)

“I get to spend way more time with my wife here,” said Battistella. “In Italy, when I wasn’t deployed, I was working a lot every day. Even with all the additional duties I have here, I still get to spend a lot of time with my wife.”

Not only does Battistella get more time to spend with his loved ones, Orsi also has more time to travel through the states.

“Before the restrictions, I used to travel a lot I kind of enjoy it because everything is so different, the landscape is amazing and the country is huge,” said Orsi. “In Italy I would never drive six hours, but here I can’t really explain why, I just enjoy it.”

With only roughly a year left in their tour, Battistella and Orsi will be spending their time at Holloman continuing to excel at the 29th ATKS strengthening the bond between the Italian air force and Holloman aircrew.

The U.S. Air Force is committed to supporting partners and establishing long-term, mutually beneficial relationships through exercises, training, professional military education, information exchanges, and cooperative agreements. 
 
 
 

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