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Polish, American sister wings celebrate 1-year anniversary

Brig. Gen. Mark Dillon, 86th Airlift Wing commander, admires the inside of a Polish air force Mi-series helicopter during a visit to Powidz Air Base, Poland, July 26, 2011. Dillon made his annual visit to Powidz after signing a letter of intention last year in June. By singing the letter of intention, the 86th AW and the 3rd AW became "sister wings" in an effort to improve operational capabilities. (U.S.  Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Tyrona Lawson).

Brig. Gen. Mark Dillon, the 86th Airlift Wing commander, accompanied by Polish air force Col. pil. Slawomir Zakowski, the 3rd Airlift Wing commander, receives a tour July 26, 2011, of one of the many aircraft used by 3rd AW airmen at Powidz Air Base, Poland. During his visit to the "sister wing," Gen. Dillon also toured the new control tower and a new hanger built for C-130 aircraft maintenance. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Tyrona Lawson)

Brig. Gen. Mark Dillon, 86th Airlift Wing commander, along with Polish air force Col. pil. Slawomir Zakowski, 3rd Airlift Wing commander, receives a tour of one of the many aircraft utilized by the 3rd Airlift, July 26, 2011, Powidz Air Base, Poland. During his visit to the “sister wing”, Gen. Dillon also toured the new control tower and a new hanger built for C-130 aircraft maintenance. (U.S.  Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Tyrona Lawson).

Brig. Gen. Mark Dillon, the 86th Airlift Wing commander, checks out a Polish air force Mi-series helicopter during a visit to Powidz Air Base, Poland, July 26, 2011. Dillon made his annual visit to Powidz after signing a letter of intention last year in June. By signing the letter of intention, the 86th AW and the 3rd AW became "sister wings" in an effort to improve operational capabilities. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Tyrona Lawson).

Brig. Gen. Mark Dillon, 86th Airlift Wing commander, and Polish air force Col. pil. Slawomir Zakowski, 3rd Airlift Wing commander, tour the control tower and view the airfield during a visit to Powidz Air Base, Poland, July 26, 2011. Dillon made his annual visit to Powidz after signing a letter of intention last year in June. By singing the letter of intention, the 86th AW and the 3rd AW became "sister wings" in an effort to improve operational capabilities. (U.S.  Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Tyrona Lawson).

Brig. Gen. Mark Dillon, the 86th Airlift Wing commander, and Polish air force Col. pil. Slawomir Zakowski, the 3rd Airlift Wing commander, tour the control tower and view the airfield during a visit to Powidz Air Base, Poland, July 26, 2011. Dillon made his annual visit to Powidz after signing a letter of intention last year in June. By signing the letter of intention, the 86th AW and the 3rd AW became "sister wings" in an effort to improve operational capabilities. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Tyrona Lawson).

POWIDZ AIR BASE, Poland (AFNS) -- The 86th Airlift Wing commander visited Poland's 3rd Airlift Wing here Aug. 3, marking the one-year anniversary of the "sister wing" relationship between the two units.

The wings began working closely in 2008, when Polish air force officials first entertained the idea of vastly improving their airlift capabilities by purchasing refurbished E-model C-130 aircraft from the U.S. inventory.

In June 2010, after they established a fleet of five C-130s, officials from the two airlift units signed a letter of intention, legally making them sister units.

"I'm excited to come back a year after establishing our sister wing (relationship). This is an exciting time for us," said Brig. Gen. Mark Dillon, the 86th AW commander. "It's a friendly reminder of the wonderful work that (our two countries have) been in cooperation with for the last 10 years: in Iraq, in Afghanistan and (during) humanitarian operations around the world."

Members of the two wings regularly train together, practicing airdrops, low-level flying and aeromedical evacuation. The purpose of the training is to prepare them to respond cooperatively to emergencies in the European theater. Over time, camaraderie and a friendly rivalry has developed between the flight crews of the two wings, improving performance on both sides. The next cooperative training is scheduled for October.

"This program is, for Polish armed forces, very important," said Polish air force Col. pil. Slawomir Zakowski, the 3rd AW commander. "We count on very good cooperation with the 86th Airlift Wing. We hope to not only develop a flying program but also a ground program. Our idea is to create a small Ramstein here in Powidz."

With the addition of the C-130E, 3rd AW officials have dramatically increased their global reach. So far this year, wing aircrews have made more than 1,000 airdrops and have flown more than 14,000 hours.

During the visit, Zakowski gave Dillon an overview of the 3rd AW's progress and new implementations developed over the course of the year, and future investments such as a cross-docking cargo port, a garrison-roofed target range and modernization of the airfield surface.

"We have a lot in common. It's great to get an opportunity to get together," Dillon said. "I look forward to continued cooperation in the future."

The 3rd Airlift Brigade Command was officially formed in 2007 and later transformed into the 3rd Airlift Wing in 2009. Its main purpose is to organize and support logistic air transport and airborne operations. Wing airmen also assist in medical evacuations and international search and rescue missions.

Powidz AB airmen also fly aircraft such as the C-295M "Casa," which is used for tactical operations, and the Mi-series transport helicopter.

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