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Ukraine officers visit RAF Lakenheath

ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England (AFPN) -- A group of Ukrainian military officers completed a five-day visit Aug. 18 to the 48th Fighter Wing here where they learned about U.S. Air Force training and operational processes.

Part of a U.S. European Command-sponsored Joint Contact Training Program, the visit fosters bilateral cooperation between the United States and Ukraine.

"I hope the activities and training our Ukrainian guests experienced here help enhance our military relationships, improving both of our nations' abilities to provide and conduct military operations in Europe," said Brig. Gen. Robert Steel, the 48th FW commander.

The contingent included two colonels and a captain from the Ukrainian military as well as a translator from the U.S. embassy in Kiev.

Col. Andrii Kurishko, a headquarters officer with Ukraine's Air Force Command, located about 155 miles southwest of Kiev, identified similarities and differences between the U.S. and Ukraine air force operations.

"Your approach to training systems are almost the same as in the Ukraine, but the procedures to implement the training and the attitude of those implementing the training, they are different," Colonel Kurishko said.

"The overall purpose of our visit it to bring an understanding of both countries' systems closer together to improve interoperability," he added.

The visit helps familiarize the Ukrainian officers with base operations and preparation of sorties, said Col. Sergii Drosdov, a MIG-29 and SU-27 pilot from the aviation component of the Ukrainian Air Force Command.

"We're also getting to see different facilities and support units as well as the planning and preparation for different operations in units," Colonel Drosdov said.

The joint contact training teams, part of USEUCOM's overall theater security cooperation program, help increase cooperation between the U.S. military and its partners throughout the European theater, improve interoperability and maintain close relations with our friends, said Col. Phillip McDaniel, the U.S. Air Forces in Europe deputy director of plans, programs and requirements.

"USAFE theater security cooperation is successful because of the many dedicated units and personnel who actively support the program with their expertise, thereby building key relationships and capabilities with priority nations throughout the European and African regions," Colonel McDaniel added.

The group spent most of the week visiting operations group units, including life support, air traffic control, the Strike Eagle complex, a flightline orientation and an F-15E Strike Eagle static display. Although this is not the first time both colonels have worked with and visited U.S. military bases and personnel, it was a first for Capt. Maksym Sikalenko, an SU-24 pilot from the Ukraine's bomber-reconnaissance brigade.

"My first impression (of American Airmen) was how everyone is responsible for doing their job, and they do so in an orderly, non-chaotic fashion," Captain Sikalenko said. "You see how the joint team can accomplish its goal and win together."

The group plans to take the lessons learned from their experience at RAF Lakenheath and report on areas the Ukrainian military may consider for possible integration in their units.

"To improve our own systems, we may suggest some elements of (U.S. Air Force) systems," said Colonel Kurishko, "but we're also here to share procedures from our own systems that may help improve our ability to work together in the future."

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