July 19, 2010 (by SSgt. Olufemi Owolabi) - On their way to the U.S. for the first time to sharpen their close-air-support skills, six F-16 fighter jets from Pakistan and their crew members took a quick stop at Lajes Field July 14-15 before heading to Red Flag at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.
All 6 of the PAF 9 sqn F-16B's are seen at Lajes Field during there stopover while heading to Nellis AFB for Red Flag on July 14th, 2010. Also in shot are AMI Tornadoes heading home from Red Flag Alaska. [Photo by Leandro Rocha]
About 100 Pakistan
air force pilots, maintainers and support personnel, accompanied by a U.S. tanker, are attending Red Flag, a premier, large force employment and integration exercise.
As soon as they touched down, Airmen of the 65th Operations Support Squadron were on standby and ready to foster bilateral relations with the international delegates.
The Pakistan aircrew arrival happened just a few hours after 12 Italian fighter jets and more than 30 support personnel passed through Lajes. The international aircrews offered the 65th OSS Airmen an opportunity to act as ambassadors for the Air Force and to provide support for these expeditionary forces.
The Italian team was on its way home after some days of flying sorties and coordinating air-attack in a Red Flag exercise at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, while the Pakistan jets and crew members were on their way to a similar exercise at Nellis AFB
"This visit to Lajes is historic to us and the Pakistan crew, because we are hosting them here for the first time. It is also very crucial in the career of the Pakistan air force since it is their first deployment to the exercise," said Tech. Sgt. Jose Ramon, coronet liaison technician with the 65th OSS. "By welcoming and giving them a world-class support, we are ensuring that their short stay here is a wonderful and lasting experience."
As soon as the Lajes team learned the aircraft and personnel were coming in, Airmen here ensured the crew's billeting, locker and food arrangements were made. They quickly dispersed the necessary aerospace ground equipment support the jets needed, such as jet fuel and lavatory services, among others.
"We did everything we could to make their stay here a memorable one," Sergeant Ramon said.
Even though the stop at Lajes was ahead of schedule, this didn't hinder the quality of service the Airmen rendered to their visitors.
Supporting the Pakistan and Italian crew members, at the same time, allowed the Airmen here to showcase how flexible and ready they are when it comes to the mission. When a mission slips, everything that is already planned for might not be taking into account anymore. And the host team had to adjust for any changes the visitors might have.
"It affects everything down to billeting reservations, setting of spots for the aircraft and coordinating with other agencies such as LRS, and ATOC," said Tech. Sgt. Richard Reif, 65th OSS. "But in the end, we still get the job done (no matter the situation)."
Sergeant said that since Lajes is the stopping point for smaller aircraft trying to make it across the Atlantic, Airmen here have a sense of urgency and readiness and they "make it happen."
"In no time, we took the jets off the runway and showed them where to park," said Staff Sgt. Sean McGrath, 65th OSS transient alert.
While some Airmen of the transient alert team, who are mostly crew chiefs, said they see this visit as an opportunity to do what they are trained to do. Some said it allows them to interact with the military of other nations while stationed at Lajes.
"Dealing with international air force members, even though there could be a complete culture difference, is very exciting because it creates an avenue for us to find a common ground to communicate and learn from each other," Sergeant Ramon said. "Such a visit helps us to learn from what they do best and for them to see how we do business."
Making sure the pilots and their crew members want to keep coming back is a goal of the 65th OSS Airmen.
"We'd like crew that pass through Lajes to know that our service here is first-class," said Maj. Robert "Bob" Sweeney, 65th OSS director of operations. "We would also like them to come back here knowing that they will be well taken care of, no matter what time of the day, the weather and where they are going ... whether they are heading to the States or overseas toward deployments or their countries, we would want them to feel like this could be a second home for them."
According to Major Sweeney, the smile on the visitors' faces when they left Lajes shows that the Airmen here are mission focused, and they derive a lot of pride in getting the job done.
The Pakistan team arrived safely at Nellis on July 16 and will be participating in the Red Flag scheduled from July 17-31.