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Exercise Tonnerre Lightning exhibits trust, teamwork, training

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the 31st Fighter Wing, Aviano Air Base, Italy, prepares to receive fuel over the Mediterranean Sea from a KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to the 100th Air Refueling Wing, RAF Mildenhall, England, during Exercise Tonnerre Lighting Nov. 9, 2016. Tonnerre Lightning is a trilateral exercise with France and the U.K. which has taken place biannually since 2014. The training focuses on refining communication procedures while building interoperability capabilities and readiness to conduct combined air operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony)

An F-16 Fighting Falcon prepares to receive fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over the Mediterranean Sea during exercise Tonnerre Lighting Nov. 9, 2016. Tonnerre Lightning is a trilateral exercise with France and the United Kingdom which focused on refining communication procedures while building interoperability capabilities and readiness to conduct combined air operations. The F-16 is assigned to the assigned to the 31st Fighter Wing at Aviano Air Base, Italy, and the KC-135 is assigned to the 100th Air Refueling Wing at Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Kendall Bryant, 351st Air Refueling Squadron boom operator, looks through a window before aerial refueling during Exercise Tonnerre Lighting Nov. 9, 2016, over the Mediterranean Sea. The exercise was a combined endeavor between U.S., U.K. and French air forces to train for real world operations. RAF Mildenhall, England, regularly trains with allied armed forces to help strengthen partnerships and standardize training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony)

Senior Airman Kendall Bryant, a 351st Air Refueling Squadron boom operator prepares to refuel an aircraft during exercise Tonnerre Lighting Nov. 9, 2016, over the Mediterranean Sea. The exercise was a combined endeavor between the U.S., U.K. and French air forces to train for real-world operations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony)

RAF MILDENHALL, England (AFNS) -- Around-the-clock, whether for combat operations or humanitarian aid, Airmen are ready to respond anywhere. Until they get that call, however, Airmen hone their skills through exercises and realistic training.

During exercise Tonnerre Lightning, the U.S. Air Force worked with United Kingdom and French forces to prepare and conduct realistic training Oct. 31-Nov. 9, at Royal Air Force Waddington, England.

“It was a compilation of U.K., French and U.S. fighters and tankers from both sides,” said Maj. Ashley Haney, the 100th Operations Group chief of exercises. “We went through the overall plan to figure out how the other countries work, what minute differences exist and how we can operate effectively together both on the tanker side and on the fighter side. The planning portion was excellent. They thought through a lot of different contingencies, understood the plan exactly, and executed the plan very well.”

Once the planning portion was complete, several airframes such as RAF Typhoons, French Mirages, U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons and KC-135 Stratotankers participated in the exercise.

“Leading a crew of three Airmen, we flew a mission down to the Mediterranean where the second portion of the exercise was held,” said Capt. Robert Allen, a 351st Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 aircraft commander. “We refueled U.S. fighter aircraft that were training and practicing in the area.”

During real-world operations, trust plays a vital role, from showing up at the right place at the right time to performing the mission effectively and efficiently. 

“Any time you get on a plane you’re trusting the crew and the receivers,” Haney said. “The receivers are trusting that we know what we’re doing and how to do it. Exercises like this help build our reliability to support our allies. That trust increases every time we operate together.”

With an exercise of this magnitude, the importance of having trust in each other assists with enabling effective communication and helps foster teamwork.

“Enhancing communication with our NATO allies makes us more efficient as one fighting unit,” Allen said. “Each country does things a little bit differently, but with exercises like this we can get on the same page and come together as one unit and one fighting force which makes us more efficient. Through training, we get to see where we are, how we work together and we can increase interoperability.”

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