USAFE - AFAFRICA   Right Corner Banner
Join the Air Force

News > The Big-22 hosts German-American First Friday
Previous ImageNext Image
First friday I
SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- Lt. Col. Douglas Nikolai, 22nd Fighter Squadron commander, welcomes guests to The Big 22 during a German-American First Friday event Oct. 3, 2008. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nathanael Callon)
Download HiRes
The Big-22 hosts German-American First Friday

Posted 10/8/2008   Updated 10/8/2008 Email story   Print story


by Staff Sgt. Andrea Knudson
52nd Fighter Wing

10/8/2008 - SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- They laughed and poked fun along with those wearing green flight suits as if they too were part of the Stinger Family and had long been in on the jokes. And if someone were to ask any of the guests as they left the close-knit celebration if they felt like members of the "fighter clan," they'd hear a resounding, "Yes."

Friends, landlords, neighbors and their families, who came from Landsheid, Esch, Grosslittgen, Dudeldorf and other areas in and around the Eifel, took part in a fighter squadron time-honored tradition at Spangdahlem Air Base Oct. 3, 2008.

The men and women of the 22nd Fighter Squadron invited their German friends to join them in the Big 22's first German-American First Friday.

"First Fridays are a tradition in U.S. Air Force Fighter Squadrons around the world and are held the first Friday of every month," said Lt. Col. Doug "Stoli" Nikolai, commander for the Big 22. "It's a great way of getting spouses and families into the squadron to enjoy each other's company and strengthen the Stinger Family."

Kristie Hayward, the event coordinator and spouse of Maj. Karamo Hayward, 22nd FS assistant director of operations, brought the concept of hosting a German-American First Friday to Colonel Nikolai.

"The idea for the German-American First Friday stemmed from the thought that our German neighbors and friends see our military members leave their houses in uniform every morning and return again at night, but many don't really know nor have an understanding of what our military members do while they're at work," Mrs. Hayward said. "We thought it would be really neat to allow our German guests to catch a glimpse into the mission and operation of the 22nd Fighter Squadron and to join in our tradition of celebrating First Friday."

Margret and Raerner Lua of Oberweis were guests of Maj. Gary "Action" Greicar, a 22nd FS pilot. The three of them toured the squadron and discussed the history of the squadron as displayed on a huge board near the briefing room. The history included different types of aircraft flown such as the P-40 Warhawk, the P-47 Thunderbolt, and, among others, the F-80 Shooting Star; locations of duty stations, from Puerto Rico and Trinidad to France and Germany; and operations the squadron took part in including Operations Enduring and Iraq Freedom.

Margret was a sales clerk with the Bitburg Base Exchange for 14 years, and Raerner served in the German military as a helicopter mechanic. Later, during introductions, Colonel Nikolai revealed that Margret saw "tanks roll through Dudeldorf" during the war.

First Lt. Brandon Baughman and his wife, Becky, brought their friends Alexandra Beresko and Michael Schmidt. This was Alexandra's first time visiting a base and had never seen an F-16. The lieutenant and his wife met Michael during one of their stateside tours.

The formal event kicked off with an F-16 brief covering its role, mission, systems and capabilities. The guests said they were quite impressed, but not only because the F-16 boasts an impressive defensive system such as the suppression and destruction of Enemy Air Defense, but because the brief was provided entirely in German. Capt. Anthony "Snake Eye" Medaglia, a pilot with the squadron who speaks fluent German, bridged the language gap between the guests and the fighter squadron for the evening.

As the more than 40 German guests dined on traditional American cuisine of hot dogs, hamburgers, several kinds of salad, and a variety of desserts, chips and dip, they joked and shared stories. And, better than any dessert, pilots and their spouses answered questions and showed them around the squadron.

Katie Nikolai roamed the halls with her and Colonel Nikolais' guests Klaus and Helena Thielen-Weber "from across the street" in Dudeldorf. She showed them the operations desk, where the refreshments were being served, and told them this was typically a busy area where pilots could be heard over the radios, and where schedules are made and weather updates are constant.

After the brief, the guests scoped out one of the jets that was parked just outside the squadron. Capt. Scott "Magnum" Butler provided insight on facets of the F-16, such as how many hours are typically flown during a mission, how little room is available up there, and the number and types of missiles they carry. The jet on display was built in 1991, and guests of Captain Butler and his wife, Ashley, were on hand for the discussion.

"I'm impressed. I learned a lot about the F-16," said Kirsten Schwind of Grosslittgen who was there with husband, Roland. She too noted that Captain Medaglia's German was very good.

But he wasn't the only American who dazzled the crowd with his German-speaking abilities. Maj. Doyle "Deuce" Pompa introduced his guests in fluent German as well, which prompted a fellow squadron member to shout "show off" and others to join in with their laughter.

Much of the night included this friendly vibe, and according to the commander, this was the goal of the event.

"We would like to see Airmen of the Big 22 and our German hosts gain a better understanding of each other and strengthen existing friendships," the colonel said. "I expect that after this event our German friends will tell their fellow Germans what a great time they had at Spangdahlem with their American friends while seeing the mighty F-16 up close and personal. Hopefully an evening they won't soon forget!

"The Stingers have developed many friendships with our German hosts throughout the Eifel Region, and inviting them to The Big 22 was a way to let them see what we do behind the base perimeter and to let them know we appreciate their support and friendship," Colonel Nikolai said.

No comments yet.  
Add a comment


ima cornerSearch

Site Map      Contact Us     Questions     Security and Privacy notice     E-publishing  
Suicide Prevention    SAPR   IG   EEO   Accessibility/Section 508   No FEAR Act