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Greece, US continue to enhance NATO airpower

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft pilot taxis to the flightline Aug. 18, 2014, at Souda Bay, Greece, during a two-week training event between Greece and the U.S. The training allows the NATO partners to fly together during peacetime to strengthen their joint military capability. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Daryl Knee/Released)

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft pilot taxis to the flightline Aug. 18, 2014, at Souda Bay, Greece, during a two-week training event between Greece and the U.S. The training allows the NATO partners to fly together during peacetime to strengthen their joint military capability. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Daryl Knee/Released)

A  F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft taxis to the flightline during a two-week training event between Greece and the U.S. Aug. 18, 2014, at Souda Bay, Greece. The training allows the NATO partners to fly together during peacetime to strengthen their joint military capability. The F-16 is from the 480th Fighter Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Daryl Knee)

A F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft taxis to the flightline during a two-week training event between Greece and the U.S. Aug. 18, 2014, at Souda Bay, Greece. The training allows the NATO partners to fly together during peacetime to strengthen their joint military capability. The F-16 is from the 480th Fighter Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Daryl Knee)

SOUDA BAY, Greece (AFNS) -- The bilateral training between the Greek and U.S. air forces continues this week with more large-force employments, or LFE.

Fighter pilots normally fly together in what is called a four-ship formation -- four pilots with assigned roles and duties who protect each other. During this week's LFE, multiple groups of four-ships, both Greek and U.S., must partner to execute a mission or overcome a simulated threat.

The significance of such training has been stressed by the senior leaders of both countries' participating airmen.

"As a fighter pilot myself, I am keenly aware of the importance of these kinds of exercises," said Hellenic air force Col. Ioannis Gerolimos, the 115th Combat Wing commander. "My aim is to make sure that the 115th CW is ready to deal with any operational situation in any environment. Also, this training exercise -- with the participation of the 480th (Fighter Squadron) -- gives us both the essential means in maintaining and enhancing the ability of our involving personnel to work together, which will be increasingly important to meet future challenges as allied air forces."

Flexible airpower derives from the ability to successfully plan, integrate, and provide command and control for a large number of tactical air assets, and each NATO partner nation may achieve their desired combat potential through rigorous peacetime training.

"It is my strong belief that this training experience will further strengthen the existing bonds between Greece and the U.S. and increase our NATO military capability," said Hellenic air force Col. K. Zolotas, the 115th Combat Wing operations and training director. "We both need this training experience because, as NATO allies, our countries could be called upon at any time to project combat air power."

But when creating joint air power, there are always some hurdles, said Capt. Brian Wagner, the 480th FS project officer for this training.

"The difficulties and benefits are two very similar things," he said. "Throughout NATO, everyone has their own background, their own story and their own cultural perspectives. When you bring all those together to accomplish one single goal, sometimes you approach a problem from a different angle. Sometimes that can lead to miscommunications, which is part of the difficulties.

"But it allows us to really use our diversity as a strength," he said about how sharing ideas and theories can sometimes lead to the best solution. "So that's how that difficulty becomes a strength through NATO."

And with NATO currently consisting of 28 independent member countries, there are many possible means to solve a problem. Every partner nation is committed to the peaceful resolution of disputes, but if diplomatic efforts fail, these countries' military services may need to act quickly to safeguard regional peace and stability.

"The purpose and importance of doing joint training is paramount," Wagner explained. "If you look at the shrinking defense budgets across the world, everyone has been smaller, leaner and smarter in the last few years. So we really rely on each other for any sort of combat operations that are going to happen. In order to be prepared for that ... we need to be able to have the experience to draw upon of how to work together with different counties and how to integrate as NATO."

Gerolimos said he hopes for a continued U.S. and Greek close partnership with the expectation that the training is not just a one-time event. Rather, he said he views it as a stepping stone to sustaining readiness and being fully prepared to meet tomorrow's threats.

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