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