Forward, Ready, Now: US Airmen train with Nordic nations

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Trevor T. McBride
  • 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
The U.S. called upon the 48th Fighter Wing to participate in a quick-response, cross-border, training exercise out of Bodo Main Air Station, Norway, May 6-8.

The exercise involved air forces from Norway, Finland and Sweden, who make up part of the Nordic Defence Cooperation.  The alliance also includes Denmark and Iceland, who were not participating in this exercise.

"The exercise gave us the opportunity to intermix between the Norwegian, Finnish and Swedish air forces," said Capt. Aaron Jones, a 494th Fighter Squadron pilot.

While located at Bodo, approximately 40 Airmen and five F-15E Strike Eagles contributed to increasing tactical interoperability between the different air forces. They accomplished this objective by conducting defensive, counter-air exercises.

The 48th Fighter Wing forward presence in Europe allows them to work closely with allies and partners to ensure security and protect global interests.

"We executed timely and effective takeoffs from Royal Air Force Lakenheath in England to be able to intermix with the cross-border training exercise and practice with our allies in the North," Jones said. "To accomplish what we did shows how quickly we can reach out and help from just about anywhere."

The participating nations worked side-by-side every day, training to meet any future challenges.

According to Norwegian air force pilot Maj. Thomas Harlem, the U.S. Air Force is their "big brother." They base tactics and training off of "big brother," but add their own capabilities in order to employ the most efficient tactics.

"Executing together helps us get to know one another's abilities and limitations," Harlem said. "We fight together, we train together."

Although the U.S. Air Force values cooperation with its regional partners, there can sometimes be obstacles.

"The language barrier is something to overcome, depending on the region we may be working with," Jones said.

Finnish air force Lt. Col. Aki Heikkinen, the Lapland Air Command commander, expressed his perspective on working alongside the U.S. Air Force.

"We try to be as (cooperative) as possible," Heikkinen said. "We have changed from Finnish as a tactical language, to English.

"Becoming friendlier with the Americans increases trust between each nation and we are able to show what we know, as well as learn what the other air forces do," Heikkinen added.

Although the purpose of the NORDEFCO training exercise was to improve air capabilities, the 48th Fighter Wing's maintenance Airmen provided the necessary ground work for that to happen.

According to Master Sgt. Martin Hardin, the 48th Equipment Maintenance Squadron production superintendent, the maintenance team proved how vital their home station training is. After the initial recall, the team met the task of showing up, outprocessing and loading the aircraft to fly to Norway so they could regenerate the aircraft to fly again immediately upon their arrival.

"The team has to overcome limited capabilities, parts and manning," Harden said. "[But] they have operated here professionally, and I have nothing but the utmost confidence that we can do this any time anyone calls upon us."

Before departing from Bodo Main Air Station, Jones reflected on his training throughout the week.

"The experience has been phenomenal," Jones said. "To be up in the air with Swedish, Norwegian and Finnish air forces, executing on a global scale is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and they are a thrill to work with."

The U.S. Air Force will continue acting collectively with NATO, NORDEFCO nations, and the international community to address any challenges.

"The training we do on a day-to-day basis allows us to be prepared for any calls at a moment's notice," Jones said. "We are forward, ready, now."