435th AGOW improves airspace, builds partnerships

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Damon Kasberg
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
The 435th Air Ground Operations Wing led a U. S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa air traffic control advisory mission in Cerklje Air Base, Slovenia, Jan. 12 to 16.

The five-day mission supported USAFE - AFAFRICA's efforts to assist the Slovenian air force in developing control measures for takeoff and landing procedures during instrument flight rules conditions; giving the base the capability to conduct flights in inclement weather conditions.

"It's a fantastic opportunity to advise and assist an allied partner, especially when the impact is critical to the expansion of their capabilities," said Maj. John Sherinian, the 435th Contingency Response Group, Det-1 chief air adviser. "Our discussions and findings will help pave the way for much greater training and interoperability between the United States Air Force and the Slovenian air force."

Currently, Cerklje Air Base only supports takeoffs and landings under visual flight rules conditions. In other words, pilots are only able to operate an aircraft in weather conditions that are clear enough to allow them to see where the aircraft is going. Assisting the Slovenia air force in creating the Civilian Aviation Authority approved procedures for publication will greatly expand the operational availability of the base's runway.

"To say it honestly, I have been waiting for this support visit from the USAFE - AFAFRICA expert team, like children wait for Christmas Day," said Slovenian air force Capt. Gregory Virant, the 15th Wing chief of air operations. "Building the instrument procedures and the ability to use them by the end of this year will be a real milestone for our air base. We will finally be able to fly in and out of Cerklje Air Base in any weather and therefore, we will be able to support NATO aircraft whether being their divert airfield, fuel stop or deployment air base."

During the visit, the team of U.S. Air Force advisers received many informative briefings on current improvements being made at the base, future projects, and airspace problems they were there to assist with.

Over the five days they undertook those problems by providing viable procedures for landings and takeoffs for aircraft under instrument flight rules. Additionally, the team offered the Slovenians their perspectives on avenues for improvement and NATO interoperability, such as force protection measures and airfield management.

"This event was an outstanding opportunity to foster relationships with our Slovenian counterparts," said Chief Master Sgt. Luis A. Martinez, the USAFE - AFAFRICA operations superintendent for command and control. "We were able to assist them in improving their air base's capabilities to handle various fixed and rotary wing aircraft for host-nation, U.S. and NATO use."

The culmination of the five-day mission was a combined briefing with the Cerklje AB commander on the team's findings and recommendation. Their findings can potentially pave the way for much greater U.S. and NATO interoperability at Cerklje AB and future use of the base for exercises and contingency response missions.