Pápa hosts biannual SAC conference

PÁPA AIR BASE, Hungary -- The Strategic Airlift Capability Program conducted its biannual SAC Steering Board and NATO Airlift Management Programme Board meetings Nov. 17 and 18, here.

A multinational program, which includes 12 partner nations--Hungary, Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Finland, Sweden and the United States-- the SAC provides military airlift capabilities to its member nations.

Although the program is not directly affiliated with NATO, it is supported by the NATO Airlift Management Programme Office in Brussels. Together, each nation gains airlift capability with the Heavy Airlift Wing, which operates three C-17 Globemaster III aircraft.

"We do these conferences periodically to bring the nations [involved] together in the SAC and HAW C-17 program," said U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Mark Camerer, SAC Steering Board chairman.  "It gives us an opportunity to make decisions regarding the financial and operational aspects that keep the program moving forward on a steady course to success."

During these meetings each participating nation has equal input on the direction the SAC Program will take.

"We as a member nation bring expertise because we have a fleet of [our own] C-17s," explained Camerer. "Beyond this, we are a member nation, like any other nation. All 12 nations have an equal vote on how we develop this program."

In addition to participating in several meetings, board members had the opportunity to tour facilities, currently under construction, that will amplify the HAW's mission effectiveness.

"The two major projects we visited were the hangar complex, which consists of a C-17 capable hangar, back shop maintenance, warehouse and office spaces to accommodate the HAW and the NATO Airlift Management Programme Office," said U.S. Air Force Col. Trevor Nitz, HAW commander.  "Along with the air traffic control tower that Pápa Air Base is constructing, brings additional capabilities to the base, which will enhance the support we get from our host nation."

Nitz is hopeful these new facilities will help further the successes of the SAC Program and the HAW.

"The tour of the facilities this morning was essentially the first opportunity for the [SAC] Steering Board and [NATO] Programme Board members to see the first results of what they have approved in the construction of our complex," explained Nitz.  "The complex itself is going to consolidate a lot of offices and functions that have been separated for many years since the beginning of this program. We have several different processes in the works right now to bring everyone together and make it even better than what we currently have."

The SAC Program has supported efforts such as the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, NATO operations in Libya, U.N. missions in Mali and earthquake relief in Haiti.

"The difference between a U.S. unit and the HAW is we have added expertise coming from all the member nations," said Nitz. "The U.S. provides C-17 expertise because we have been flying them for many years, but all that is melded together with great expertise from all of the other member nations."

Camerer credits the continued success of the program to the cooperation between the 12 member nations.

"This program is a shining example of the capability that can be garnered when nations work together to pool their resources and to pool their assets," said Camerer.