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Air Force Colonel discusses Heavy Airlift Operations from Hungary

For the first time ever, 12 nations have come together, independently of NATO, to fly in support of their national requirements for Strategic Airlift Capability. “While we don’t take operational directions from [NATO], our nations are free to use their flying hours to support NATO missions,” U.S. Air Force Col. John D. Zazworski, Jr., commander of the Heavy Airlift Wing, Papa, Hungary, told bloggers during a Department of Defense Bloggers Roundtable teleconference July 29.  You can hear the audio from the teleconference here.

During the official activation ceremony of a first-of-its-kind multinational Heavy Airlift Wing at Papa Air Base, Hungary, July 27, U.S. Air Force Col. John Zazworsky gives thanks to the 12-nation team who, during the last 10 months, stood up the organization that will provide strategic airlift worldwide for humanitarian, disaster relief, and peacekeeping missions in support of the European Union, United Nations and NATO. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Scott Wagers)

Dispatch from USAFELive–12 nations’ first C-17 and one awesome mission

Below is a dispatch, originally posted on USAFE Live, by Col. John Zazworsky (below right), Commander, Heavy Airlift Wing, Pápa Air Base, Hungary. Col. Zazworsky discusses the importance of the new multinational Heavy Airlift Wing, a collaboration between 12 nations to provide strategic airlift capability.

Team, Mission and Future – that’s what I tell the members of my wing, the first-of-its-kind Heavy Airlift Wing, based at Pápa Air Base, Hungary.  I challenge all 131 of them – from 12 different nations — to guide their work using these three priorities.  We’ve built a multinational team; we’re focused on executing C-17 missions and we’re literally making history as we shape the future.

The concept is simple, and yet profound: a partnership effort to make possible for 12 nations what any one of them could not do alone.

The Heavy Airlift Wing is the operational-level flying unit brought to life by the unprecedented Strategic Airlift Capability, or SAC, Program.  After two years of discussions, 12 nations officially signed onto the program just over 10 months ago, creating a consortium of both NATO and non-NATO nations with a common goal.

All 12 nations have a need for strategic airlift – the ability to transport troops, mechanized firepower and oversized equipment weighing tens of tons between continents.  Yet all faced daunting dollar signs in acquiring an airframe capable of doing so.
While some of the SAC nations own tactical airlifters – smaller cargo aircraft that hold less and fly shorter distances, like the C-130, none but the US own strategic airlift aircraft.  And yet each nation has commitments to fulfill for NATO, the European Union and the United Nations.  For instance, all have obligations to equip and resupply their troops currently supporting NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

The solution: collectively organize, train and equip a multinational unit to jointly own and operate three C-17s with global reach and power.

The first of our fleet is now in hand, already hard at work.  I had the honor of receiving SAC 01 from the master builders at Boeing Tuesday and took off from Long Beach, Calif., for Charleston AFB, S.C., to load up forklifts, cargo loading vehicles and other heavy equipment.  These items will allow us to carry out logistics functions at Pápa.

I was just awed to watch my team in action these past couple days: a talented and energized crew of pilots, loadmasters and flying crew chiefs from Norway, Sweden and the U.S. making our mission a reality… not to mention the others back home ensuring all goes smoothly.  The nations have sent their best for sure.

We take off today to complete the second leg of our 5,300-nautical-mile maiden flight to Pápa AB, the place we now call home.  Amid a vibrant and welcoming small town of 33,000 natives, our airmen and their families have built a military community of Bulgarians, Dutch, Estonians, Finns, Lithuanians, Norwegians, Poles, Romanians, Slovenians, Swedes and Americans… and of course our hosts, the Hungarians.
So many from every nation have worked tirelessly to build from scratch what’s essentially a multinational air force – without any real template of any kind — on soil that is foreign to all nations but one.  It’s literally been a pioneering effort.  And with SAC 01 under our command, we’re now ready to officially activate the wing.

On July 27, civilian and military leaders from all of the SAC nations and NATO will join us at Pápa to officially activate the Heavy Airlift Wing and to celebrate the capability we are and will be for decades to come.

As someone who’s worn Air Force blue for 26 years, I’m humbled to have this incomparable command opportunity, to see military partnerships and friendships transcend history, borders, languages and cultures… and to play a role in the future of multinational airlift.

It’s time for take-off.

Col. John Zazworsky
Heavy Airlift Wing
Pápa Air Base, Hungary

Story from USAFELive: First C-130 delivered to Poland

The U.S. Air Force delivered the first Polish C-130E Hercules to Powidz Air Base on 24 March 2009. In addition to the delivery of F-16s, C-130s are helping the Polish Air Force become a modern transport hub. “A crew from Hill AFB flew the aircraft from the U.S., and they were accompanied by a Polish crew who, several months ago, had completed training with the 118th Airlift Wing of the Tennessee Air National Guard.” Capt John Szczepanski, Air Force Affairs Office, Office of Defense Cooperation, captured the event and the importance of building the capability of an important U.S. ally. Read the full story here on USAFELive. (USAFE is the U.S. Air Forces in Europe, one of nine Major Commands of the U.S. Air Force.)