Multinational Heavy Airlift Wing celebrates 10th anniversary

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt Stephen Ocenosak
  • U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa

The United States, alongside 11 NATO and Partnership for Peace nations, celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Heavy Airlift Wing, or HAW, activation under the Strategic Airlift Capability program this week at Pápa Air Base, Hungary.

The SAC program is an initial 30-year commitment and consists of NATO members Hungary, Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and the U.S. and Partnership for Peace nations Finland and Sweden.

The HAW employs three C-17 Globemaster III aircraft and has achieved a mission completion rate of approximately 94%. As of May 2019, the HAW has flown nearly 2,500 missions, encompassing over 27,000 hours, carried more than 130,000 passengers and delivered 174 million pounds of cargo.

In recognition of these accomplishments the HAW hosted an anniversary celebration June 26-27 at Pápa. Brig. Gen. Michael Koscheski, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa Director of Operations, Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration, was one of the guest speakers.

“The breadth of the Strategic Airlift Capability’s path over the past ten years has been impressive,” said Koscheski, formerly USAFE - AFAFRICA Director of Plans, Programs and Analyses and SAC Steering Board Chairperson. “Each nation has seen significant advancement with the SAC C-17 and its national defense strategies. We have witnessed special operations air drops from heights not accomplished in the C-17 before, and developed the capability to conduct boat drops and airfield seizures.”

The HAW is the first multinational military airlift unit in the world, essentially providing a worldwide airlift response capability for the 12 member nations. Operations can include national support to the European Union, NATO, United Nations operations, or national military, peacekeeping and humanitarian relief operations.

Throughout its tenure the HAW has provided humanitarian assistance for natural disasters in Haiti, Pakistan and St. Maarten; flown in support of U.N. Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Missions in Mali and in the Central African Republic; and provided airlift for the International Security Assistance Force and Resolute Support missions in Afghanistan.

Retired U.S. Air Force Col. John Zazworsky, who served as the first HAW commander, described his service during an anniversary dinner.

“To me, the most significant result of this program is that former enemy nations are now partners. When I was an Air Force cadet in the early 1980s seven of the 12 SAC nations were adversaries as a block of nations challenging security and stability of Europe,” Zazworsky recalled. “Then nearly 30 years later, I was flying combat missions with fellow crew members from those same former adversaries, only now we were depending on each other for safe successful completion of our missions. What now seemed routine as an aircrew member was and still is a significant statement about what can be accomplished when nations build a common vision and work collectively toward a shared capability to enhance all of their national securities.”

In Kosheski’s closing comments he said a quote from former President Dwight D. Eisenhower came to mind, “accomplishments will prove to be a journey not a destination.”

“Our path at the HAW has taken us on a journey of success and lessons learned,” Koscheski concluded. “We can stand assured that we have achieved so much in this short 10-year journey, but there is much more to achieve and discover.”