Ramstein Airmen help kick-off Real Thaw 16

BEJA AIR BASE, Portugal -- Approximately 60 Airmen from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, along with six Allied nations, helped kick off Exercise Real Thaw 16 with an opening ceremony in Beja, Portugal, Feb. 21.

Real Thaw 16 is a Portuguese-hosted NATO exercise that provides tactical training to participating nations. Its aim is to merge and employ different aerial platforms toward one major objective, covering a vast range of activities to include defensive and offensive counter-air operations, high-value air assets protection and a slow-mover protection.

"Real Thaw 16 first debuted in 2009; since then, we have been improving scenarios and aiming to prepare forces for operations throughout the world," said Brig. Gen. Barros Ferreira, Portuguese air force director of air operations. "At the end of the two-week exercise we will have shared our knowledge and experiences which are essential ingredients to improve our training standards and team work building."
Nations participating this year include the U.S., Portugal, Belgium, Denmark, France, Netherlands, Norway and Spain.

"Every day, we work side-by-side with our European Allies and partners, training to meet the future security challenges," said Maj. Octavio Prieto, 86th Airlift Wing component detachment commander.  "Our positive relationship with our NATO Allies and the ability to conduct these types of training events enables the U.S. to maintain a critical mobility hub and access to the continent in support of U.S. training and mission objectives."

Along with improving relations between nations, the exercise also builds interoperability between military forces, which helps the different forces work more fluidly in future joint operations.

"During the exercise we will be conducting joint day and night operations to test the synchronization of multinational linking assets which will help enhance tactics development and validation," Prieto said. "By utilizing the increased cooperation stemming from this exercise participation will strengthen our joint operation capabilities to ensure a secure and safe Europe."

This is the first time in 10 years Ramstein participated in the exercise, which will last from Feb. 22 to March 4, 2016.