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Exercise Tonnerre Lightning exhibits trust, teamwork and training

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Ryan Nelson, 351st Air Refueling Squadron co-pilot, flies a KC-135 Stratotanker over the Mediterranean Sea during Exercise Tonnerre Lighting Nov. 9, 2016. The exercise was a combined endeavor between U.S., U.K. and French air forces to train for real-world operations. RAF Mildenhall, England, regularly trains with allied armed forces to help strengthen partnerships and standardize training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony)

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Ryan Nelson, 351st Air Refueling Squadron co-pilot, flies a KC-135 Stratotanker over the Mediterranean Sea during Exercise Tonnerre Lighting Nov. 9, 2016. The exercise was a combined endeavor between U.S., U.K. and French air forces to train for real-world operations. RAF Mildenhall, England, regularly trains with allied armed forces to help strengthen partnerships and standardize training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony)

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the 31st Fighter Wing, Aviano Air Base, Italy, flies off the wing of a KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to the 100th Air Refueling Wing, RAF Mildenhall, England, over the Mediterranean Sea during Exercise Tonnerre Lighting Nov. 9, 2016. Exercise Tonnerre Lightning is a NATO exercise designed to improve interoperability between partner nation air forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony)

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the 31st Fighter Wing, Aviano Air Base, Italy, flies off the wing of a KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to the 100th Air Refueling Wing, RAF Mildenhall, England, over the Mediterranean Sea during Exercise Tonnerre Lighting Nov. 9, 2016. Exercise Tonnerre Lightning is a NATO exercise designed to improve interoperability between partner nation air forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony)

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the 31st Fighter Wing, Aviano Air Base, Italy, prepares to take fuel over the Mediterranean Sea from a KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to the 100th Air Refueling Wing, RAF Mildenhall, England, during Exercise Tonnerre Lighting Nov. 9, 2016. Tonnerre Lightning is a trilateral exercise with France and the U.K. that has taken place biannually since 2014. The training focuses on refining communication procedures while building interoperability capabilities and readiness to conduct combined air operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony)

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the 31st Fighter Wing, Aviano Air Base, Italy, prepares to take fuel over the Mediterranean Sea from a KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to the 100th Air Refueling Wing, RAF Mildenhall, England, during Exercise Tonnerre Lighting Nov. 9, 2016. Tonnerre Lightning is a trilateral exercise with France and the U.K. that has taken place biannually since 2014. The training focuses on refining communication procedures while building interoperability capabilities and readiness to conduct combined air operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony)

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the 31st Fighter Wing, Aviano Air Base, Italy, prepares to receive fuel over the Mediterranean Sea from a KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to the 100th Air Refueling Wing, RAF Mildenhall, England, during Exercise Tonnerre Lighting Nov. 9, 2016. Tonnerre Lightning is a trilateral exercise with France and the U.K. which has taken place biannually since 2014. The training focuses on refining communication procedures while building interoperability capabilities and readiness to conduct combined air operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony)

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the 31st Fighter Wing, Aviano Air Base, Italy, prepares to receive fuel over the Mediterranean Sea from a KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to the 100th Air Refueling Wing, RAF Mildenhall, England, during Exercise Tonnerre Lighting Nov. 9, 2016. Tonnerre Lightning is a trilateral exercise with France and the U.K. which has taken place biannually since 2014. The training focuses on refining communication procedures while building interoperability capabilities and readiness to conduct combined air operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Kendall Bryant, 351st Air Refueling Squadron boom operator, looks through a window before aerial refueling during Exercise Tonnerre Lighting Nov. 9, 2016, over the Mediterranean Sea. The exercise was a combined endeavor between U.S., U.K. and French air forces to train for real world operations. RAF Mildenhall, England, regularly trains with allied armed forces to help strengthen partnerships and standardize training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Kendall Bryant, 351st Air Refueling Squadron boom operator, looks through a window before aerial refueling during Exercise Tonnerre Lighting Nov. 9, 2016, over the Mediterranean Sea. The exercise was a combined endeavor between U.S., U.K. and French air forces to train for real world operations. RAF Mildenhall, England, regularly trains with allied armed forces to help strengthen partnerships and standardize training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony)

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the 31st Fighter Wing, Aviano Air Base, Italy, breaks away after receiving fuel over the Mediterranean Sea from a KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to the 100th Air Refueling Wing, RAF Mildenhall, England, during Exercise Tonnerre Lighting Nov. 9, 2016. Training exercises such as Tonnerre Lightning enable the U.S., U.K., and France to enhance their mutual abilities to work together toward regional security. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony)

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the 31st Fighter Wing, Aviano Air Base, Italy, breaks away after receiving fuel over the Mediterranean Sea from a KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to the 100th Air Refueling Wing, RAF Mildenhall, England, during Exercise Tonnerre Lighting Nov. 9, 2016. Training exercises such as Tonnerre Lightning enable the U.S., U.K., and France to enhance their mutual abilities to work together toward regional security. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony)

RAF MILDENHALL, England -- Around-the-clock, whether for combat operations or humanitarian aid, U.S. Air Force Airmen are ready to respond anywhere. Until they get that call, however, Airmen hone their skills through exercises and realistic training.

Exercise Tonnerre Lightning provided just that. The U.S. Air Force worked with United Kingdom and French forces to prepare and conduct realistic training Oct. 31 to Nov. 9, 2016, at RAF Waddington, England.

“It was a compilation of U.K., French and U.S. fighters and tankers from both sides,” said Maj. Ashley Haney, 100th Operations Group chief of exercises. “We went through the overall plan to figure out how the other countries work, what minute differences exists and how we can operate effectively together both on the tanker side and on the fighter side. The planning portion was excellent. They thought through a lot of different contingencies, understood the plan exactly, and executed the plan very well.”

Once the planning portion was complete, several airframes such as RAF Typhoons, French Mirages, U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons and KC-135 Stratotankers participated in the exercise.

“Leading a crew of three Airmen, we flew a mission down to the Mediterranean where the second portion of the exercise was held,” said Capt. Robert Allen, 351st Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft commander. “We refueled U.S. fighter aircraft that were training and practicing in the area.”

During real-world operations trust plays a vital role, from showing up at the right place at the right time to performing the mission effectively and efficiently.

“Any time you get on a plane you’re trusting the crew and the receivers,” Haney said. “The receivers are trusting that we know what we’re doing and how to do it. Exercises like this help build our reliability to support our allies. That trust increase every time we operate together.”

With an exercise of this magnitude, the importance of having trust in each other enables effective communication and helps foster teamwork.

“Enhancing communication with our NATO Allies makes us more efficient as one fighting unit,” Allen said. “Each country does things a little bit differently, but with exercises like this we can get on the same page and come together as one unit and one fighting force which makes us more efficient. Through training, we get to see where we are, how we work together and we can increase interoperability.”