ANDRAVIDA AIR BASE, Greece (AFNS) --
U.S. Airmen and F-16 Fighting Falcons assigned to the 31st Fighter Wing, Aviano Air Base, Italy, participated in exercise INIOCHOS 21 at Andravida Air Base April 12–22.
The exercise was a Hellenic air force-sponsored operational and tactical level field training exercise, hosted by the Hellenic Air Tactics Center at Greece’s fighter weapons school. The aim was to enhance combat readiness and fighting capability, while providing participants the opportunity to develop capabilities planning and conduct complex air operations in a multinational, joint-force environment.
Along with Greek and U.S. participants, Canada, Cyprus, Israel, Slovenia, Spain and the United Arab Emirates also supported INIOCHOS 21.
During the exercise, the 510th Fighter Squadron conducted a multitude of joint operations and air defense training to include air-to-ground strike missions, defensive counter-air and close air support, also known as CAS. The 510th FS dropped approximately 170 inert munitions, fired 8,300 training rounds on Greek live-fire ranges and completed more than 200 sorties.
On the ground, five tactical air control party Airmen assigned to the 2nd Air Support Operations Squadron, Vilseck, Germany, completed 14 close air support missions and worked with aircraft from the U.S., France, Greece and Cyprus. These missions culminated with U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ryne Moody, 2nd ASOS TACP specialist, providing CAS for two Hellenic air force F-4s, allowing for a Cyprus search and rescue helicopter to evacuate a Greek search and rescue team.
Additional U.S. forces participating included KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft assigned to the 100th Air Refueling Wing, RAF Mildenhall, United Kingdom.
INIOCHOS 21 will continue to improve U.S. and participating nation interoperability, allowing participants to demonstrate their own unique roles in contributing to regional and global security.
During the exercise, U.S. Air Force Gen. Jeff Harrigian, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa commander, and U.S. Ambassador to the Hellenic Republic Geoffrey Pyatt, visited Andravida Air Base to meet with Prime Minister of Greece Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Hellenic air force leadership, and key defense leaders in the region.
Hellenic air force leadership in attendance included Chief of Hellenic National Defense General Staff Gen. Konstantinos Floros, Chief of Hellenic Air Force General Staff Lt. Gen. George Blioumis and Col. Nikolaos Kokonis, Hellenic Air Tactics Center commander.
During their remarks, the key defense leaders spoke of the success of the exercise and thanked all the countries involved for their participation and commitment to the NATO alliance.
“INIOCHOS is an important opportunity for our Airmen to train alongside and learn from our Greek allies as well as the other exercise participants,” Harrigian said. “It both improves the relationships that underpin our military alliance and creates opportunities to refine critical skills that enhance our interoperability.”
U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Jason Bailey, 31st FW commander, also visited Andravida during the exercise to interact with Airmen on the ground and flew an F-16 alongside counterparts from Greece, France, Cyprus and Israel.
The U.S. shares a common interest in maintaining a Europe that is safe, secure and prosperous. Despite the continued threat of COVID-19, USAFE is committed to the mission in all domains and the readiness of our allies and partners.
The 31st FW took proactive steps to ensure all personnel followed force health protection, Defense Department, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and host-nation guidance to avoid contracting and spreading respiratory illness like the flu or COVID-19.
Personnel were tested for COVID-19 before leaving and before returning to Aviano AB. Random tests were also conducted throughout the exercise and all COVID-19 test results were negative.
Funds from the European Deterrence Initiative were used to fund a portion of INIOCHOS 21. These funds enable the U.S to enhance the U.S. deterrence posture, increase the readiness and responsiveness of U.S. forces in Europe, support the collective defense and security of NATO allies, and bolster the security and capacity of U.S. partners.