COMUSAFE forges multinational relations

  • Published
  • By Capt. Krista Carlos
  • U.S. Air Forces in Europe Public Affairs
The commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe stopped through Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Turkey to forge relations with a potential NATO nation and check on the status of several endeavors during a three-day whirlwind trip May 18 – 20.

Wearing his NATO hat, Gen. Tom Hobbins’ first stop was Azerbaijan, where he met with the Minister of Defense and Air Chief, as well as local air base leadership.

“Gen. [Charles] Wald, (former Deputy Commander, U.S. European Command) asked if I’d take Azerbaijan and the caucus area as a USAFE area of interest, so I had two purposes for going there,” said Gen Hobbins. “The first purpose was to open up relations as a new commander, and the second was to check the runway status to see if they had made any progress from the survey our team performed on the airfield a month earlier.”

Chief Master Sgt. Gary Coleman, USAFE command chief, highlighted a third purpose.

“We also exchanged ideas on what they could do to modernize the runway at Nasosnaya Air Base and make it NATO standard so perhaps we could use that airfield in the future,” he said.

After Azerbaijan, the travel party stopped in Tajikistan where COMUSAFE met with a deployed French Mirage unit supporting the International Security Assistance Forces mission.

“We planned to go through Dushanbe, Tajikistan in order to visit the French Mirage unit that was arriving there to support the ISAF mission and…thank them for their service” said General Hobbins.

After visiting with the unit, the travel party proceeded downrange to visit the ISAF headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, and check on the progress of their command and control systems.

During a February visit, General Hobbins encouraged ISAF to upgrade its antiquated communication systems.

“He laid out some very specific kinds of communications capabilities that were available and also identified expectations for supporting our Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines,” Chief Master Sgt. Coleman said. “It was really neat to come back three months later and see the progress that’s been made, it’s really remarkable.”

General Hobbins also toured the newly renovated Integrated Combined Joint Operations Center, using some of the equipment to see how it worked, said Maj. Emma Covell, Royal U.K. Army and project officer.

“I think the visit went very well,” she said.

Many deployed members would agree that the highlight of COMUSAFE’s Kabul trip was the special treat he brought along to perform for the troops. USAFE’s band Touch N’ Go performed for two hours for the ISAF headquarters staff.

“It was nice that the troops got an opportunity to let their hair down a bit, the band was very professional,” said Maj. Covell. “It was almost like a Wembley stadium performance and it was really quite surreal being in the center of Kabul, a very un-westernized city, and have all this going on.”

The final stop on the way back to Ramstein was to Incirlik Air Base where COMUSAFE recognized several outstanding Airmen.

“I thought the trip overall was exceptional,” said Chief Master Sgt. Coleman. “I’ve been in the European theater for almost three years, and I think this trip was one of the best that we’ve been on in the time I’ve served.”