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Multinational Heavy Airlift Wing celebrates 10th anniversary

During the official activation ceremony of a first-of-its-kind multinational heavy airlift wing at Papa Air Base, Hungary, July 27, 2009 U.S. Air Force Col. John Zazworsky and Brig. Gen. Richard Johnston unveil the organizational flag. The ceremony celebrated the efforts of the 12 nations who, during the last 10 months, stood up the organization that will provide strategic airlift worldwide for humanitarian, disaster relief, and peacekeeping missions in support of the European Union, United Nations and NATO. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Scott Wagers)

During the official activation ceremony of a first-of-its-kind multinational heavy airlift wing at Papa Air Base, Hungary, July 27, 2009, U.S. Air Force Col. John Zazworsky and Brig. Gen. Richard Johnston unveil the organizational flag. The ceremony celebrated the efforts of the 12 nations who, during the last 10 months, stood up the organization that will provide strategic airlift worldwide for humanitarian, disaster relief and peacekeeping missions in support of the European Union, United Nations and NATO. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Scott Wagers)

Airmen representing the 12 partnering nations take part in the activation ceremony of a first-of-its-kind multinational Heavy Airlift Wing at Papa Air Base, Hungary. The ceremony celebrated the efforts of the 12 nations who, during the last 10 months, stood up the organization that will provide strategic airlift worldwide for humanitarian, disaster relief, and peacekeeping missions in support of the European Union, United Nations and NATO. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Scott Wagers)

Airmen representing the 12 partnering nations take part in the activation ceremony of a first-of-its-kind multinational Heavy Airlift Wing at Papa Air Base, Hungary. The ceremony celebrated the efforts of the 12 nations who, during the last 10 months, stood up the organization that will provide strategic airlift worldwide for humanitarian, disaster relief and peacekeeping missions in support of the European Union, United Nations and NATO. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Scott Wagers)

(Archive Photo) U.S. Army Paratroopers assigned to 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, conduct an airborne operation from C17 Globemaster III Aircraft from Papa Air Base, Hungary, during exercise Eagle Sokol at Cerklje Drop Zone in Slovenia, Mar. 22, 2019. Exercise Eagle Sokol is a bilateral training exercise with the Slovenian Armed Forces focused on the rapid deployment and assembly of forces and team cohesion with weapon systems tactics and procedures. Exercises such as this build a foundation of teamwork and readiness between allied NATO countries. The 173rd Airborne Brigade is the U.S. Army Contingency Response Force in Europe, capable of projecting ready forces anywhere in the U.S. European, Africa or Central Commands' areas of responsibility. (U.S. Army Photos by Paolo Bovo)

U.S. Army Paratroopers assigned to 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, conduct an airborne operation from C17 Globemaster III Aircraft from Papa Air Base, Hungary, during exercise Eagle Sokol at Cerklje Drop Zone in Slovenia, Mar. 22, 2019. Exercise Eagle Sokol is a bilateral training exercise with the Slovenian Armed Forces focused on the rapid deployment and assembly of forces and team cohesion with weapon systems tactics and procedures. Exercises such as this build a foundation of teamwork and readiness between allied NATO countries. The 173rd Airborne Brigade is the U.S. Army Contingency Response Force in Europe, capable of projecting ready forces anywhere in the U.S. European, Africa or Central Commands' areas of responsibility. (U.S. Army photo by Paolo Bovo)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany (AFNS) --

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.”

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