COMUSAFE forges relations with Latvian officials

  • Published
  • By Capt. Elizabeth Culbertson
  • U.S. Air Forces in Europe Public Affairs
The U.S. Air Forces in Europe commander and staff advisers visited Riga, Latvia, Sept. 11 to meet senior defense and state department officials and tour facilities.

During the trip, Gen. William T. Hobbins visited the U.S. Embassy, Latvian Ministry of Defense and Joint Operations Center in Riga.

"We had the opportunity to meet with Ambassador Catherine Todd Bailey and her country team," said Col. Peter Castor, 32nd Air Operations Center commander. "Brig. Gen. Juris Maklakvos, the commander of the Latvian armed forces, also took time to meet with us, as did their air forces' commander, Col. Alexsandrs Stepanov."

The visit built on NATO air interoperability.

"In May 2005, during President (George W.) Bush's visit to Latvia, the 32nd Air and Space Operations Center worked alongside the Latvians to provide air space control and deconfliction. This visit built upon relationships created during that operation," said Colonel Castor.

"Our visit included a tour of the Latvian Joint Operations Center; it's a newly constructed facility with impressive capabilities. The JOC offers enhanced capabilities for us to integrate with NATO and the Latvian air force," he said.

After lunch at a local restaurant, the general's travel party received a walking tour of the old city and were impressed by Latvian hospitality.

"The Latvians are extremely gracious and hospitable. Hopefully, we will have the opportunity to reciprocate," said Colonel Castor.

"They really rolled out the red carpet," said Col. Daniel Fincher, USAFE staff judge advocate. "I was impressed by the security and logistics support they provided."

"Everyone was extremely pleasant, extremely cooperative. We look forward to working relationships and continued partnerships as we continue meeting our NATO taskings," said Col. Tip Wight, Allied Air Component Command Ramstein director of staff.