September 17, 2014 (by Debi Smith ) - The ENJJPT Star program is designed to recognize extraordinary aviation moments by pilots who have graduated from the ENJJPT program. Each commander of the 13-partner countries has the opportunity to nominate someone for a star. This year, the honor was conferred upon a pilot from the Royal Netherlands Air Force, Colonel Peter Tankink.
The 'ENJJPT Star' is awarded to RNlAF F-16 pilot, Col. Peter 'Wobble' Tankink at Sheppard AFB. This is the third honor for a Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program graduate in the program's 30 year history. The award recognizes extraordinary aviation moments. For Tankink, it was his first shoot-first kill downing of a MiG-29 during Operation Allied Forces Kosovo in 1999. He shared the experience with a standing-room-only crowd of undergraduate pilots and instructors on September 15th, 2014. [USAF photo by A1C. Jelani Gibson]
During combat operations over Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan in the late 90's, Euro-NATO
Joint Jet Pilot Training program graduate pilot, then-Major Peter "Wobble" Tankink , flew F-16s for the Royal Netherlands
Air Force. His role during combat would make the history books.
On Mar. 24, 1999, Maj. Tankink and three fellow ENJJPT pilots, representing two countries, were flying a fighter escort mission for one of the first NATO strike packages in Operation Allied Force Kosovo.
After pressing into enemy territory over Serbia to chase Soviet MiG 29s, Maj. Tankink is credited with the first shot-first kill that marked the first Dutch air-to-air victory since World War II and earned him a place as an 'ENJJPT Star' in the 80th Flying Training Wing.
Now serving as Commander of Air Base Volkel, Netherlands, Colonel Tankink visited Sheppard Air Force Base Sep. 15 to check in with the Netherlands ENJJPT detachment and share his personal memory of that MiG-kill mission with 80th Flying Training personnel currently in undergraduate pilot training.
"This was the first F-16 four-ship formation to fly at night (no night vision goggles back then) and even though we were flying in the pitch dark, the most dangerous part was not the mission, but refueling with the tanker," he said. "There were about 45 aircraft in the NATO-led mission. It was a very successful air campaign because of our training here at Sheppard and at home. We train across the spectrum but we are the relationships of all our countries and we recognize ENJJPT's greatness. We need each other, everywhere in the world, in all the exercises we do and in real world situations. We do it for a safer world."
Col. Tankink is one of only three recipients of the award which recognizes graduates who have gone above and beyond in distinguishing themselves and their country during their career. The initial program recipient was Belgian Air Force pilot, Captain SAM
Verheire, ENJJPT Class 98-03 followed by U.S. Air Force pilot, Capt. Michael "Bok" Schaner, Class 01-02, the first ENJJPT graduate to become an operational Raptor driver.
80th Flying Training Wing commander, Col. Lance Bunch, presented the 'ENJJPT Star' plaque and noted that several aviation firsts were made during the mission.
"This was one of the first NATO strike packages in Operation Allied Force Kosovo and although he wasn't the lead pilot, Col. Tankink was the first to engage and strike after receiving clearance," he said. "This MiG-29 kill marked the first Dutch air-to-air victory since World War II - he was prepared, he was trained, he was ready to take his place when called. It is a privilege to hear his memorable account of the mission. Col. Tankink is now the first Dutch ENJJPT graduate to earn an ENJJPT Star."
The plaque will hang with the other two ENJJPT stars in the 80th Operations Building as a reminder of what the Euro-NATO program represents, the inspiration of role models who have walked these halls and the milestones that can be achieved for country, team and self.
ENJJPT's goal is that on one training day or with one flight schedule, where decision meets preparedness, the alliance mission and national outcome merge in the interests of global success.