Romanian, U.S. lieutenants personify NATO alliance

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Maeson L. Elleman
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

In the wake of increased security concerns along NATO’s Eastern flank, the 52nd Fighter Wing did what it does best – deployed hundreds of multi-capable Airmen to support operations with hardly a moment’s notice.

Though it’s a scenario played out countless times throughout the Air Force’s history, the locations, requirements, military response – and especially people – rarely stay the same, creating challenges that, in this line of work, could carry disastrous consequences if not carefully mitigated.

Though calling the situation stressful for the planning team from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, hardly does it justice, the 52nd Mission Support Group’s project officer for the deployment, 1st Lt. Jayce Webster, found solace through the aid of his Romanian air force counterpart, Lt. Alex Nasturel – while also making a lifelong friend.

Recounting their first meeting, Nasturel and Webster said this friendship all started with a surprise encounter a few months ago.

“Alex was the first face I saw on base once we arrived on Feb. 6, and when Alex saw us, he thought we were some other unit,” Webster said with a laugh. “From that day forward, we’ve worked together every day. When we showed up, we told him we were part of the 480th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, and they started working to get us all settled.”

Since the 480th EFS deployed their own F-16s, though a different model from their Romanian counterparts, Nasturel has acted as a crucial mediator for the 480th EFS’ logistics needs.

Though their national origins differ, their tones, articulation, and presentation are mirror images — each carries himself with a confident stride, is quick to the point in a conversation and can quickly rattle off all the necessary questions and responses when presented with a challenging situation.

“It’s great for me,” said Nasturel, a native of Fetesti. “It’s a totally new experience working with new people and new ways of thinking. It really changed my day a lot and the way I go around things. Usually it was just simple, ‘go find out what’s broken and fix it – work on it.’ Now I just add some logistics to the mix. I get to go over there and talk to Jayce.”

By its nature, the NATO alliance is designed to build partnerships with multinational militaries forming together in countless different regions and environments to provide security and stability.

Given the enhanced Air Policing mission and the high tempo that joins the Romanian and U.S. forces together, it’s easy to see the working relationship between Nasturel and Webster would need to be a well-oiled machine.

With Nasturel's mission expertise, coupled with his excellent language proficiency, despite English being his second language, Webster said he was the perfect man for the job.

“Alex has been a great counterpart from his host nation,” Webster said. “This is my first time working in a foreign country. I didn’t know what the language barrier would be like, so first off, him being good at English and him knowing all the entities on base and understanding the support side of the house and what we would need was great. He pretty much had all the answers.”

Nearly every morning, the two meet to discuss and coordinate the logistical needs of each nations’ forces at the base. When parts break and need replacements, supplies run short and need replenishment, or the mission shifts and needs further coordination, it’s Webster and Nasturel taking charge and seamlessly integrating to augment the supply chain.

Nasturel said that the experience has made him better and more experienced when it comes to mission planning as well.

“What I got to learn [from the team], aside from the friendship, that’s going to be one of the best things I’m going to get,” Nasturel said. “For me, getting [U.S. Air Forces in Europe] cargo into the base was, I think, one of the most interesting and I’d say challenging things we’ve ever had to do.”

Despite this, though, it’s evident the two service members aren’t just coworkers, simply acting civilly to get a job done; they embrace and personify the NATO alliance, but they also said it extends beyond a single mission.

“We just built that relationship, talking every day,” Webster said. “We laugh, we joke, and just get to know each other on a personal level instead of just an official level. We always talk about host nation relations, but it’ll be more than that; we made some lifelong friends, for sure.”

It’s been more than two and a half months since their first meeting, but now the 480th EFS is handing over the reins of the U.S. Air Force’s presence in Romania to the 510th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron from Aviano Air Base. The 510th EFS’ six F-16 Fighting Falcons arrived April 29, and the 480th EFS’ own six jets returned to Spangdahlem Air Base the following day.

It’s a bittersweet transition for the two lieutenants, but just as the Alliance persists, so will their friendship.