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US solidifies NATO, allied partnership at Trident Juncture 2015

Staff Sgt. Christopher Lancaster, a 52nd Component Maintenance Squadron aerospace propulsion technician, works on the engine of an F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft, assigned to the 480th Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, before it participates in Trident Juncture 2015 at Beja Air Base, Portugal, Oct. 22, 2015. NATO exercises such as Trident Juncture provide an excellent venue for current and hopeful NATO members to work on their warfighting, communication and coordination skills. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Airman 1st Class Luke Kitterman)

Staff Sgt. Christopher Lancaster, a 52nd Component Maintenance Squadron aerospace propulsion technician, works on the engine of an F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft, assigned to the 480th Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, before it participates in Trident Juncture 2015 at Beja Air Base, Portugal, Oct. 22, 2015. NATO exercises such as Trident Juncture provide an excellent venue for current and hopeful NATO members to work on their warfighting, communication and coordination skills. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Airman 1st Class Luke Kitterman)

An F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft pilot from the 480th Fighter Squadron, Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, conducts pre-flight checks before takeoff at Beja Air Base, Portugal, Oct. 21, 2015. The 480th FS is here in support of Exercise Trident Juncture 2015, a multinational exercise consisting of more than 30,000 troops from more than 30 nations. The exercise is geared toward demonstrating ability to respond on a large scale to a crisis scenario. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Luke Kitterman)

An F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft pilot from the 480th Fighter Squadron, Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, conducts pre-flight checks before takeoff at Beja Air Base, Portugal, Oct. 21, 2015. The 480th FS is here in support of Exercise Trident Juncture 2015, a multinational exercise consisting of more than 30,000 troops from more than 30 nations. The exercise is geared toward demonstrating ability to respond on a large scale to a crisis scenario. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Luke Kitterman)

BEJA AIR BASE, Portugal (AFNS) -- More than 130 operations, maintenance and support Airmen and five F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft from the 52nd Fighter Wing at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, deployed here Oct. 16 to participate in Exercise Trident Juncture 2015.

This exercise is an annual NATO Response Force certification exercise designed to demonstrate NATO's resolve, capability and capacity to meet present and future security challenges. Spangdahlem Airmen are among the 36,000 military members from 30 NATO and partnering nations participating in the land, air and maritime exercise across Italy, Spain, Portugal and the Mediterranean Sea.

Second Lt. Cody Nelson, the exercise’s maintenance operations center officer-in-charge for the United States, said exercises like this one are necessary in order to meet today's security challenges.

"Our reason for being here can't be understated, because of the variability of who we'll have to work with in terms of allied partners," Nelson said. "This gives us the opportunity to learn faces, learn names and talk cross organization about how to improve and work better together and how to get things done efficiently, quickly and safely."

The partnership that Nelson and the rest of the maintenance Airmen cultivated since the start of the exercise came to fruition as one allied partner, Norway, helped the fighter community at Beja AB identify an issue that spread across all the fighter platforms following a recent tanker operation.

"A part was damaged on all the jets across the fleet," Nelson said. "Because one nation identified the issue, we were able to address it which ended up saving us a lot of man hours and flying hours for our program."

This example demonstrates the interoperability and teamwork NATO and allied partners have to ensure mission success whether it is an exercise or potential real-world mission. Exercise Trident Juncture 2015 also ensures NATO and allied partners have the capability and resolve to work together seamlessly to address emerging crises should they arise.

Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Canada, Germany, Portugal, and the United States make up the eight nations, 3,000 military members and 40 aircraft participating in the exercise at Beja AB.

"It is fairly common to train bilaterally with one other country, but the ability we have here at Trident Juncture 2015 with the numerous NATO and partnering countries is unprecedented," Maj. Brad Sullivan, the 480th Fighter Squadron Detachment commander. "It is important to know how the different nations operate in the air and on the ground and events like this allow us to get to know the pilots who will be called to fly alongside of us in potential conflicts."

It wasn't easy getting an exercise of this magnitude operational with so many countries involved. However, the Portuguese air force headed up the coordination efforts to ensure 52nd FW Airmen had everything necessary -- from equipment, supplies to cargo movement -- to get operational. This was also a way to test Portuguese air force's capability to support and sustain such a large contingency of people at Beja.

According to 1st Lt. Brent Escay, the exercise’s mission support group project officer for the United States, Spangdahlem relied heavily on the Portuguese air force to ensure the successful deployment, beddown, integration, and upcoming redeployment of 52nd FW Airmen and the 374th Rescue Group Airmen from Moody Air Force Base, Georgia.

"I think it's vitally important to do this, the way we conduct war in a peacetime scenario when the stakes are not quite as high," Escay said. "When we get opportunities like this, we can focus on improving our procedures. If we have to go to war and we've never tried to exercise these procedures and we've never tried to integrate, we'd be setting ourselves up for failure."

Trident Juncture 2015 is slated to end Nov. 6, marking the largest exercise conducted by the NATO alliance since 2002.

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