Papa Air Base, Hungary –
“Just living is not enough...one must have sunshine, freedom and F-16s.” said Danish author, Hans Christian Andersen.
Okay, that is not how the quote actually ends but on a day of sunshine and blue skies at Pápa Air Base, Hungary, the sound of freedom echoes through the air as F-16s conduct training exercises and suddenly one can not envision that quote ending any other way than with F-16s replacing “a little flower” in Andersen's’ famous quote.
From July 15th to August 5th 2016, eight F-16s and approximately 200 Airmen from the 140th Wing and the 120th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, Colorado Air National Guard will be deployed to Hungary in conjunction with Operation Atlantic Resolve.
“OAR is a demonstration of continued U.S. commitment to collective security through a series of actions designed to reassure NATO allies and partners of America's dedication to enduring peace and stability in the region in light of the Russian intervention in Ukraine.” (www.defense.gov).
Col. Floyd Dunstan, 140th Wing Commander, stated “the overall mission of the 140th WG and the 120th FS being deployed to Hungary is for our flying training deployment, which is a training we do on an annual basis. We had an opportunity to come over here and support the European reassurance initiative and do some flying with the Hungarian air force and also be able to support Joint Terminal Attack Controller training for the Hungarian and Slovenian armed forces.”
The COANG routinely rotates forces in and out of Europe, which enhances the strength of NATO alliances without the need to permanently base additional aircraft and Airmen in Europe.
Dunstan stated, “The role of the COANG in support of European stability operations is greatly important and for us to be able to deploy with our NATO partners, Hungary and Slovenia, is very significant because it allows us to align our capabilities and further integrates the multiple armed forces.”
The 120th FS will be doing air to air missions with the Hungarian Gripen fighter aircraft, close air support and forced air control support with the Hungarian JTACs and Slovenian JTACs. They will also be participating in cross-border flights with deployed U.S. Air Force A-10s and KC-135s from other U.S. Air National Guard bases and allied nation air forces in Slovakia, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovenia.
“These are bread and butter missions that we do everyday, no matter what theater we are in, with the F-16” said Dunstan.
During this deployment, the 120th FS will also conduct in-flight training missions with the Slovenian air force as part of the State Partnership Program, through which Colorado and Slovenia support one another's needs and improve the strategic objectives of both countries.
A recent initiative between the two countries is Pocek Range in Slovenia. Members of the 140th WG have been instrumental in the development, construction and training of the new range and just recently, were successful in bringing the range up to NATO standards. Reaching NATO standards is significant because not only is Slovenia an SPP country, but many NATO countries, including Hungary utilize the range. U.S. F-16s from Aviano Air Base, Italy, also rely on Pocek Range for training missions.
The mission of the NATO organization is to safeguard the freedom and security of its members through political and military means. Our NATO alliance, our ongoing commitment to Operation Atlantic Resolve and our continued rotation of forces through Europe, serves as a reminder that “Just living is not enough...one must have sunshine, freedom and F-16s.”