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USAFE, ANG squadrons strengthen teams in Estonia

Ämari Air Base, Estonia (AFNS) -- U.S. Air Force and allied partners completed a multilateral flying training deployment in Estonia Sept. 2. The event served to enhance unit readiness and interoperability.

The 493rd Fighter Squadron based out of Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, and the California Air National Guard’s 194th Expeditionary Flying Squadron, flew alongside allied nations to enhance capabilities and demonstrate their commitment to European security and stability.

“It was a tremendous opportunity for the (194th EFS) to train and integrate with the (493rd FS) Reapers,” said Lt. Col. Robert Swertfager, 194th EFS commander. “The amount of instructor time and the amount of support we got from the 493rd was top shelf.”

The two squadrons participated in the FTD with Estonian, Swedish, Finnish and U.K. aircraft and personnel to focus on dissimilar air training and test their capabilities against each other.

According to Lt. Col. Jason Zumwalt, 493rd FS commander, bringing the five nations together to train effectively took time, but was well worth the effort.

“When you start out with a new team, with a bunch of members who have never worked together, there’s that awkward phase where you’re not very good working together and performance is low,” he said. “We are always trying to get to know each other and find out what each group’s strengths and weaknesses are, and, once that happens, the team performs very well together.”

The pilots practiced various tactics and offensive and defensive counter air operations to enhance their readiness, while building resilient relationships with each other and the participating forces.

“What this FTD provides us is building trust with other countries around Europe,” Zumwalt said. “Getting together, finding out our roles and building relationships to build that trust.”

The FTD supported Operation Atlantic Resolve in an effort to demonstrate the U.S.’s commitment to NATO, allied partnerships, and European security. More than 300 Airmen participated in the FTD to help make the routine rotational deployment a successful operation.