31 MXG trains Romanian maintainers, build friendship

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Thomas Calopedis
  • 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

The 31st Maintenance Group conducted a training-oriented mission to assist in the development of the Romanian air force’s F-16 Fighting Falcon jet program. 

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Brian Johnston, 31st MXG phase section chief, took a team of five U.S. Airmen to Romania’s 86th Air Base to train Romanian airmen on F-16 maintenance operations.

For two weeks, Johnston’s team taught Romanian air force members about care and maintenance of F-16s. Johnston also said he learned from the Romanian air force airmen as well, gaining new knowledge and fond memories from his time with them.

“Working with the Romanian team was a great experience. They don’t do things the same ways as us, so it was really interesting to see their working processes,” said Johnston. “I wasn’t familiar with their maintenance culture and its unique organizational structure, but I appreciated their “can do” attitude and sense of dedication to the mission. Our teams are similar in those regards.”

Ultimately both nations’ maintainers had more in common than not. Once they started working the job, they found working together was the same no matter where your teammates are from.

“Overall, we're still more similar than we are different,” he said. “While we were working on the jet together, both maintenance teams got covered in oil, hydro and everything else as we worked. We each saw the other guys just as dirty as we were; we saw that we’re all just mechanics and we bonded over the hard work.”

While the language barrier is a common obstacle for any Airman stationed in a foreign country, it wasn’t much of a hurdle for Johnston and his team due to their time spent in Italy.

“They spoke English quite fluently, and it turns out Romanian is more similar to Italian than I expected,” said Johnston. “We were a little worried about how the language barrier would affect our ability to train them, especially with how technical our curriculum was, but in the end it couldn’t have gone more smoothly.”

The end of the duty day did not end Johnston and his team’s time with their Romanian counterparts. Johnston’s team also received a memorable hospitality experience from their hosts.

“One of their chiefs took us to his house after we completed our scheduled training for the day. We shared a homemade Romanian drink he brewed and just talked about life,” said Johnston. “We made some good friends out there.”

Johnston’s team were all seasoned non-commissioned officers who collaborated and helped each other as much as they helped the Romanians. They brought with them a diverse skillset from across the entire 31st MXG that made the mission possible.

“We all come from different parts of the Maintenance Group and have different experiences, but when it came time to train the Romanian airmen we all came together as one team,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Dalton Barteld, 31st Maintenance Squadron crew chief. “If we gave our two cents on something, it was always appreciated by whoever was leading that particular training.”

After working with the Romanian air force, Johnston‘s team returned to Aviano Air Base with a different perspective on their own jobs and their own Air Force. 

“Certain programs we can take for granted because it's just always been there, but having experiences like this gives us perspective,” said Barteld. “The benefits of these opportunities definitely helps us continue an already strong friendship with our allies.”