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Greek, US training reaffirms rock-solid friendship

SOUDA BAY, Greece (AFNS) -- With the White Mountains of Crete as their backdrop, U.S. and Hellenic air forces F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft soared to great heights and speeds as part of a continuing flying training deployment (FTD) Jan. 16 through Feb. 13 at Souda Bay, Greece.

The training between the U.S. Air Force’s 480th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, deployed from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, and the Hellenic air force's 115th Combat Wing's 340th and 343rd Fighter Squadrons aims to develop and improve air readiness while expanding strategic and operational ties between the two NATO partners.

"We both need this training experience because, as NATO allies, our countries could be called upon at any time to project combat air power," said Hellenic air force Col. Ioannis Gerolymos, the 115th CW commander. "These training opportunities help expand relationships with key NATO allies while sustaining our readiness to be fully prepared to meet tomorrow's threats."

Approximately 300 personnel from the 52nd Fighter Wing at Spangdahlem AB participated in the deployment in various operational, maintenance, mission support, medical and staff agency capacities. Many of those roles provided Airmen opportunities to work side by side with their Hellenic air force or U.S. Navy counterparts stationed at Souda Bay.

The deployment also marks the 480th EFS' second training engagement at Crete since the previous FTD in August 2014. The 52nd FW pilots flew their 18 F-16s, along with those of their Hellenic air force counterparts, to elevations far exceeding the island's highest peak at more than 8,000 feet reaching miles beyond its shorelines, over the Mediterranean Sea.

"Greece offers unrestricted, live ranges, as well as access to excellent infrastructure and support facilities," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. David Berkland, the 480th EFS commander. "We are ready to respond to contingencies anywhere, anytime, and that is largely due to the diverse training opportunities afforded by our NATO partners, like this one with our Greek allies."