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20th FW and Pakistani airmen reunite at Red Flag

F-16s from the Pakistan Air Force fly near a KC-135 Stratotanker after refueling during an Exercise Red Flag mission July 21, 2010, at Nellis Air Force, Nev. Approximately 100 Pakistan Air Force F-16B pilots and support personnel are participating in Red Flag. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Daniel Phelps)

F-16s from the Pakistan Air Force fly near a KC-135 Stratotanker after refueling during an Exercise Red Flag mission July 21, 2010, at Nellis Air Force, Nev. Approximately 100 Pakistan Air Force F-16B pilots and support personnel are participating in Red Flag. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Daniel Phelps)

An F-16 Fighting Falcon from the 77th Fighter Squadron takes off from the runway for Exercise Red Flag July 21, 2010, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Red Flag is a realistic combat training exercise involving the air forces of the U.S. and its allies. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Daniel Phelps)

An F-16 Fighting Falcon from the 77th Fighter Squadron takes off from the runway for Exercise Red Flag July 21, 2010, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Red Flag is a realistic combat training exercise involving the air forces of the U.S. and its allies. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Daniel Phelps)

An F-16 from the Pakistan Air Force takes off the runway for Exercise Red Flag 10-4 July 21, 2010, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Red Flag is a realistic combat training exercise involving the air forces of the U.S. and its allies. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Daniel Phelps)

An F-16 from the Pakistan Air Force takes off the runway for Exercise Red Flag 10-4 July 21, 2010, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Red Flag is a realistic combat training exercise involving the air forces of the U.S. and its allies. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Daniel Phelps)

An F-16 from the Pakistan Air Force receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker during an Exercise Red Flag 10-4 mission July 21, 2010, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Red Flag is a realistic combat training exercise involving the air forces of the U.S. and its allies. (U.S. Navy photo/Petty Officer 1st Class Stephen Wolff)

An F-16 from the Pakistan Air Force receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker during an Exercise Red Flag 10-4 mission July 21, 2010, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Red Flag is a realistic combat training exercise involving the air forces of the U.S. and its allies. (U.S. Navy photo/Petty Officer 1st Class Stephen Wolff)

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. (AFNS) -- In a symbolic and historical event, Pakistan airmen flew six F-16Bs and 100 aircrew, maintenance and support members more than 7,700 miles from Pakistan to participate in their first Red Flag and Green Flag exercises at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. in mid-July.

There, the Pakistani airmen met up with the 77th Fighter Squadron, a past U.S. training partner from the 20th Fighter Wing, at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C.

"The deployment from home base to Nellis (AFB) was an unequivocal experience, considering the distance and the consequential use of aerial refueling," said Pakistan Air Force Group Captain Javad Saeed, the Pakistan detachment commander.

In 2006, the U.S. Air Force and the PAF came together for an exercise in Southwest Asia, said Capt. Lisa Spilinek, the 9th Air Force and U.S. Air Forces Central media operations officer. Since then, they have participated in normally scheduled exercises in that area, to improve U.S. and Pakistani interoperability and security relationships, and to demonstrate the U.S. resolve to support the security and humanitarian interests of friends and allies in the region.

"Since that exercise, the continued engagement we have had with the PAF shows our commitment to them and how important and strategic our relationship is," said Col. Don Godier, the 20th FW vice commander and the Exercise Red Flag 10-4 Air Expeditionary Wing commander.

"The spinoff of enhanced mutual respect and appreciation for one another is what has lead to continued engagements and up to Red Flag," Captain Saeed added.

"The 20th FW sent the 77th (Fighter Squadron) to participate in that 2006 exercise in support of the 9th Air Force engagement strategy focus and helped serve as a foundation for improving the interoperability between the two air forces," said Colonel Godier, who was also the 77th FS commander at that time. "During Red Flag 10-4, the 77th FS received the opportunity to fly again with the 9th FS from Pakistan, the same squadron they flew with in 2006, continuing the relationship."

Red Flag 10-4 gave both air forces the opportunity to learn and grow from each other through the opportunity to understand each other better culturally and professionally, Captain Saeed said. Both aspects are crucial for working on common objectives.

"The PAF's participation in this world-class exercise helps to build international air force cooperation, interoperability and mutual support," said Navy Vice Adm. Michael LeFever, the U.S. Department of Defense representative to Pakistan. "It is also significant as both a tangible and symbolic demonstration of the deepening U.S.-Pakistan strategic relationship."

"There is definitely a history between us and the PAF," said Capt. Max Johnson, a 77th FS F-16 pilot. "A couple of the Pakistani pilots recognized our patch and were asking us about a lot of the pilots from 2006."

Captain Johnson said he was surprised at the lack of the cultural barrier between them.

"Originally, some of us were expecting a language barrier working with (the Pakistani airmen)," the pilot said. "But, they all knew English very well. We were able to joke around with them and understand each other's jokes."

On top of all this, Red Flag gave PAF members the unique opportunity to deploy their assets and personnel halfway around the world, Captain Saeed said. It also helped provide them a contemporary air combat training environment for their less experienced aircrew.

Training together with coalition forces helps with understanding and communication, Colonel Godier said. It helps improve the effect and efficiency as combat air forces.

"Our participation together in this exercise has been not only valuable, but essential in that coalition forces are the key to success," Colonel Godier said. "It has been a long process of working together."

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