US, Romania train to strengthen NATO alliance

An F-15C Eagle fighter aircraft from the 159th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron takes off from Campia Turzii, Romania, July 18, 2017. The squadron is in Romania in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve, an ongoing operation meant to enhance the security of Europe and bolster partnership between NATO allies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chad Warren)

An F-15C Eagle fighter aircraft from the 159th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron takes off from Campia Turzii, Romania, July 18, 2017. The squadron is in Romania in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve, an ongoing operation meant to enhance the security of Europe and bolster partnership between NATO allies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chad Warren)

Maintenance Airmen from the 159th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron work on an F-15C Eagle fighter aircraft at Campia Turzii, Romania, July 12, 2017. The squadron is in Romania in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve, an ongoing operation meant to enhance the security of Europe and bolster partnership between NATO allies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chad Warren)

Maintenance Airmen from the 159th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron work on an F-15C Eagle fighter aircraft at Campia Turzii, Romania, July 12, 2017. The squadron is in Romania in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve, an ongoing operation meant to enhance the security of Europe and bolster partnership between NATO allies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chad Warren)

An F-15C Eagle fighter aircraft from the 159th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron takes off from Campia Turzii, Romania, July 12, 2017. The squadron is in Romania in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve, an ongoing operation meant to enhance the security of Europe and bolster partnership between NATO allies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chad Warren)

An F-15C Eagle fighter aircraft from the 159th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron takes off from Campia Turzii, Romania, July 12, 2017. The squadron is in Romania in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve, an ongoing operation meant to enhance the security of Europe and bolster partnership between NATO allies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chad Warren)

Three F-15C Eagle fighter aircraft from the 159th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron taxi prior to takeoff from Campia Turzii, Romania, July 13, 2017. The squadron is in Romania in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve, an ongoing operation meant to enhance the security of Europe and bolster partnership between NATO allies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chad Warren)

Three F-15C Eagle fighter aircraft from the 159th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron taxi prior to takeoff from Campia Turzii, Romania, July 13, 2017. The squadron is in Romania in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve, an ongoing operation meant to enhance the security of Europe and bolster partnership between NATO allies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chad Warren)

CAMPIA TURZII, Romania -- Airmen from the 159th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron are conducting training in Romania as part of the European Theater Security Package, a rotational deployment meant to ensure regional stability and increase interoperability with NATO allies.

The unit arrived in Romania in late June from Jacksonville, Fla., and has been flying the F-15C Eagle fighter aircraft daily, training with each other as well as alongside the Romanian air force MiG-21 aircraft in order to strengthen their ability to fight as a team should the need arise in the future.

“This gives us the opportunity train together so in the future we will be better prepared to handle any security challenges or humanitarian challenges that may come up, particularly with the relationship that we establish over our time here,” said Lt. Col. George Downs, 159th EFS commander. “It also gives us an opportunity to exercise going to a location we might not be familiar with.”

For the Airmen of the 159th, the terrain offers a unique flying experience they don't get to face in their training back in Jacksonville.

“This is some of the best flying airspace in Europe,” said Downs. “There are mountains, and the terrain is something we don’t normally get to train to back home being close to the coast.”

It isn’t only the pilots that benefit from the training; support Airmen who make the mission happen also get to see firsthand what it’s like to operate in a deployed environment.

“From a maintenance standpoint and everything that we are doing, our training is our exercise,” said Maj. Clayton Thompson, 159th EFS maintenance commander. “For our maintainers out on the line, they are doing the same job we would be doing if we were in a wartime situation, and that is to provide mission-ready aircraft to our operators.”

The NATO alliance is a key piece of the overall security of Europe, and the TSP rotations are an opportunity for allies to familiarize themselves with foreign equipment and tactics in order to strengthen that overall security well into the future.

“We will continue to build this relationship with the Romanians and continue to sharpen the blade, so that if push comes to shove and we have to go to war we are able to fight together,” said Lt. Col. Mansour Elhihi, 159th EFS deputy commander. “We tell our Airmen and pilots that tomorrow could be the day, so we need to be ready.”