Lakenheath jets take off for training
RAF LAKENHEATH, England — Sixteen jets from the 48th Fighter Wing roared off into the English sky Friday morning.
But their destination is closer to the Gulf of Cadiz than the Persian Gulf.
Six F-15C Eagles from the 493rd Fighter Squadron headed to Torrejon Air Base, Spain, while 10 F-15E Strike Eagles from the 492nd Fighter Squadron had Air Base No. 5 at Monte Real, Portugal, in their sights.
“It’s a training deployment,” said Lt. Col. Jay Silveria, 39, commander of the 492nd Fighter Squadron. “It’s an opportunity for us to work with our allies.”
During the two-week deployment, Silveria’s squadron will work with Royal Navy Sea Harriers from Great Britain, F-16As from the Portuguese air force and NATO Airborne Warning and Control System planes flying from Geilenkirchen Air Base, Germany. The F-15Cs will train with Spanish F-18s.
Maintainers from the 48th Maintenance Group are also on the deployment.
“We’re doing a full range across all of our missions,” Silveria said shortly before taking off. “We’re also going to work on a bombing range.”
But the members of the squadrons follow the news and Silveria said they are aware of goings-on in and around Iraq. That just makes the training more important, he said.
“It’s going to make them better no matter what they do,” he said. “We’re not changing our training. We’re not changing our missions. That training alone will make us ready.”
He said his squadron and all squadrons throughout the Air Force have a training schedule they stick to regardless of anything else.
“World events don’t increase that training cycle or change that training cycle,” he said. “We’ll continue to train. We’ll continue to prepare. If called on, we’ll be ready to go.”
Capt. Mike Dunyak, 27, the weapons systems operator who flies with Silveria, said the atmosphere in the squadron is pretty much business as usual.
“I think it’s the same as it’s always been,” he said. “Very motivated. Focused on doing our jobs.
“World events are always in the back of everyone’s mind, but we don’t change our focus. We don’t change our mission.”
For the next two weeks, that mission is to become familiar with the aircraft and tactics of allies who might one day be sharing a battlefield with the 48th Fighter Wing.
“It’s going to be excellent training,” said Dunyak. “Anytime we get to participate with other NATO countries, it gives us an added advantage.”