POWIDZ AIR BASE, Poland --
Aircrew, maintenance and support personnel from the 100th and 434th Air Refueling Wings wrapped up operations June 17, 2016 at Powidz Air Base, Poland, after supporting Baltic Operations 2016.
"Although it's a maritime exercise, aircraft from all over Europe participated in this exercise to provide and execute air defense and support," explained Capt. Dan Leininger, Detachment commander. "Tankers were very integral in that piece. Our role was to extend the legs of the F-16s"
During BALTOPS 2016 NATO Allies and partner nations to include 17 countries came together to train as one military. The time spent training together allowed all participating nations to learn from one another, gaining the skills and capabilities to work together seamlessly.
"This exercise gave us the opportunity to integrate and increase our air capabilities, tactics and techniques with our allies," Leininger stated. "If we don’t practice then it will be more difficult to operate together when we need to respond to real-world situations. That's what we’ve done for the past two weeks here, we're practiced and sharped our skills to meet our combat readiness goals."
During any exercise, communication is always a key to success. Leininger explained that there had been months of preparation leading up to the exercise and throughout. Communication was happening between four different units based out of three different locations.
"It was a significant undertaking," Leininger explained. "We had 73 people here making sure that everyone knew when they needed to show up and what they needed to do. It's a difficult task but we've been able to be very successful."
According to Leininger, there were two highlights for him during the operations that epitomized the mission of working with other nations and seeing everyone's capabilities in action. The first was when all four KC-135s from the 100th and 434th ARWs arrived one after another June 2.
"When all four jets landed here I was very relieved and it was exciting to see them all lined up on the apron," Leininger described. "I have a picture with four tankers and three polish gas tanks right behind them, fueling them up and getting them ready to go."
The second highlight occurred June 9.
"My next favorite was being able to see all the coalition aircraft come together with the (U.S. Air Force) B-52, the (Swedish) Gripens, the (German) Typhoons, the U.S. and Polish F-16s and the tanker of course, up there with our boom being able to offload and increasing the different aircraft capabilities," Leininger said as he described the formation that flew over the Baltic Sea.
"I think that was a highlight," he continued. "In one picture it shows the capability that we have, and the force we have throughout NATO and all the participating countries."
According the Leininger the mission was a great success. The KC-135s flew 30 sorties which included 95 flying hours off-loading 953 pounds of JP8 fuel to U.S. jets and Polish F-16s; totaling 93 receivers, 27 of which were Polish.
BALTOPS 2016 successfully increased the capability of NATO and partner forces, and the collective ability of participating nation's to respond to a range of real-world situations.