U.S. Air Force assumes lead of NATO Baltic Air Policing mission Published Aug. 31, 2017 By Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs ŠIAULIAI AIR BASE, Lithuania -- The United States Air Force assumed control of the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission from the Polish air force during a hand-over, take-over ceremony at Šiauliai Air Base, Lithuania, Aug. 30, 2017.Approximately 140 Airmen and seven F-15C Eagles deployed to Lithuania as part of the 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron from Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England.“I'm excited as a NATO Air Chief and I'm excited as a U.S. citizen to welcome the 493rd from the 48th Fighter Wing, an F-15C squadron to serve the next rotation of Baltic Air Policing,” said Gen. Tod D. Wolters, NATO Allied Air Command and U.S. Air Forces in Europe commander. "It is the U.S.’ fifth opportunity to rotate and serve the region, and I know that all of our maintainers, operators, mission supporters and that beautiful F-15C will do whatever it takes over the next 120 days to protect the beautiful sovereign skies above Lithuania."NATO Air Policing is a peacetime collective defense mission, safeguarding the integrity of the NATO Alliance member’s airspace. The principle of collective defense is at the very heart of NATO’s founding treaty. It remains a unique and enduring principle that binds its members together, committing them to protect each other and setting a spirit of solidarity within the Alliance."We know that all of NATO stands alongside us in defense of our shared values and principles," said Vytautas Umbrasas, Vice Minister of Lithuania’s National Defence.Baltic Air Policing is part of NATO's "Smart Defense" model that incorporates allied nations, conducting operations through shared capabilities and coordinated efforts to effectively accomplish missions.“I speak on behalf of every U.S. Airman here, when I say that it is our honor to protect and defend the sovereignty of the Baltic borders,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Cody Blake, 493rd EFS detachment commander.This is the U.S. Air Force’s 5th rotation serving as the lead for the NATO mission. The 493rd EFS is slated to continue its current rotation through the end of the 2017 calendar year.