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Airmen 1st Class Philip Behneke, foreground, and Jared Cripe, 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron avionics technicians, wear full chemical warfare gear while making last-minute checks on an F-16CJ aircraft prior to launch Monday, as part of a NATO tactical evaluation.

Airmen 1st Class Philip Behneke, foreground, and Jared Cripe, 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron avionics technicians, wear full chemical warfare gear while making last-minute checks on an F-16CJ aircraft prior to launch Monday, as part of a NATO tactical evaluation. (Courtesy of USAF)

Airmen 1st Class Philip Behneke, foreground, and Jared Cripe, 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron avionics technicians, wear full chemical warfare gear while making last-minute checks on an F-16CJ aircraft prior to launch Monday, as part of a NATO tactical evaluation.

Airmen 1st Class Philip Behneke, foreground, and Jared Cripe, 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron avionics technicians, wear full chemical warfare gear while making last-minute checks on an F-16CJ aircraft prior to launch Monday, as part of a NATO tactical evaluation. (Courtesy of USAF)

Airman 1st Class Christopher Mustard, a crew chief from the 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron helps Capt. James Gump, 23rd Fighter Squadron pilot, get situated into his F-16CJ aircraft prior to take-off Monday during the NATO tactical evaluation at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany.

Airman 1st Class Christopher Mustard, a crew chief from the 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron helps Capt. James Gump, 23rd Fighter Squadron pilot, get situated into his F-16CJ aircraft prior to take-off Monday during the NATO tactical evaluation at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. (Courtesy of USAF)

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — NATO evaluators are putting some 600 Spangdahlem Air Base airmen to the test this week during an exercise to show whether the base is ready to fight alongside its allies.

It’s the first time the NATO tactical evaluation has been done at Spangdahlem since 1999 because the 52nd Fighter Wing has been so busy manning operations around the world, said Tech. Sgt. Mike Cass, the wing’s inspections chief of Phase II — or wartime — exercises.

The wing’s real-world experience, however, doesn’t necessarily mean it is ready to fight alongside its NATO allies, he said.

“Most people believe that because we’ve been going to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, we’re prepared for this. But we need to understand how we would work with different partners in NATO. A lot of time, that could cause some difficulties,” Cass said.

This week’s exercise focuses on performance as a deployed unit, so the airmen have created their own base — called, fictitiously, Saber Air Base — on a corner of the installation. NATO evaluators are acting as a host nation and are running all the scenarios, Cass said.

The scenarios will test operations, logistics and force protection based on NATO regulations, Cass said. Areas such as equipment use and how troops handle various weapons attacks will be graded, among other things.

Troops have done three wartime exercises to prepare for the NATO evaluation.

“We think we’re ready,” Cass said.


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