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US, Greece reinforce proven partnership through airpower

A Hellenic air force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft from the 343rd Fighter Squadron lands on the flightline January 26, 2015, at Souda Bay, Greece. The aircraft flew during training operations as part of a flying training deployment between the Greek and U.S. air forces. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden)

A Hellenic air force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft from the 343rd Fighter Squadron lands on the flightline January 26, 2015, at Souda Bay, Greece. The aircraft flew during training operations as part of a flying training deployment between the Greek and U.S. air forces. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden)

A Hellenic air force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft from the 340th Fighter Squadron takes off January 26, 2015, from the flightline at Souda Bay, Greece. The aircraft, assigned to the Greek air force's 115th Combat Wing, participated in a flying training deployment along with the U.S. Air Force's 480th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden)

A Hellenic air force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft from the 340th Fighter Squadron takes off January 26, 2015, from the flightline at Souda Bay, Greece. The aircraft, assigned to the Greek air force's 115th Combat Wing, participated in a flying training deployment along with the U.S. Air Force's 480th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden)

SOUDA BAY, Greece (AFNS) -- Over the clear blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea, the U.S. and Greek air forces continue bilateral flying training missions here.

The training, which began Jan. 16 and will run through Feb. 13, aims to bolster the nations' warfighting capabilities through combined air operations as well as maintain joint readiness between the two NATO partners.

The pre-planned training engagement between the 480th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, and the Hellenic air force's 115th Combat Wing represents U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa's third flying training deployment (FTD) held on the island of Crete since 2014.

"Successful partnering activities like this lead to tangible benefits during peacetime contingencies and crises," said Gen. Frank Gorenc, the USAFE - AFAFRICA commander, regarding the 494th Fighter Squadron's FTD to Souda Bay in February 2014. "Continuing our partnership with the Hellenic air force allows both nations to enhance interoperability and readiness. Any opportunity our forces have to fly in new airspace with one of our NATO partners is beneficial. No nation can confront today's challenges alone."

This FTD includes approximately 300 personnel from the 52nd Fighter Wing at Spangdahlem AB , who will fly, maintain or support operations involving 18 of the wing's F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft, while evaluating both aircraft and personnel capabilities.

The F-16s, augmenting USAFE's 'Forward, Ready, Now!' posture, conduct multiple flying sorties alongside those from the 115th CW's 340th and 343rd Fighter Squadrons.

"In the air, our fighter pilots have conducted very intense air-to-air training with HAF pilots, honing each other's combat flying skills while improving our ability to operate as a bilateral airpower team," said Lt. Col. David Berkland, the 480th EFS commander. "It's our second FTD to Souda Bay in six months, and, at this point, we've built a rock-solid relationship with our HAF partners."

The training opportunity also represents another chapter in the countries' continuing military partnership -- one that dates back to the early 19th century when Americans backed the Greek's fight for independence against the Ottoman Empire.

"It is a strong belief that this kind of training experience will further strengthen the existing bonds between Greece and the United States and increase our NATO military capability," said HAF Col. Ioannis Gerolymos, the 115th CW commander. "Such combined Greek-U.S. air force exercises have enhanced the warfighting capabilities of both U.S. and Greek forces; we continually learn from and improve upon each other's tactics, techniques and procedures."

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