Spangdahlem airmen off to Romania for exercise
Stars and Stripes August 9, 2006
SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany — About 250 airmen and 14 F-16 fighters from Spangdahlem’s 52nd Fighter Wing left on Tuesday for a three-week multinational exercise in Romania.
The fighters and the bulk of the airmen are with the base’s 22nd Fighter Squadron and will be working out of a base near the coastal city of Constanta.
The exercise will give the pilots a chance to hone their fighter tactics. Capt. Darren Willis, an F-16 pilot, said aviators would have an opportunity to train with other nations in the former Soviet state and practice their low-flying skills. Pilots usually don’t fly training missions below 1,000 feet in Germany.
“Probably the biggest thing is we’re able to get down to 500 feet, which we can do here in Germany [but] it’s just a little limited,” Willis said. “So, it’s a chance for us to just address some things we don’t always get to do here. So, that’s something we’re looking forward to doing.”
The fighters left as a group shortly after several plane loads of mostly crewmembers and support personnel took off from the base, which is in the middle of the Eifel region of Germany. A combat communications team of about 30 airmen from Ramstein Air Base is already in Romania to support the group, said Master Sgt. Dan Williams, the noncommissioned officer in charge of wing deployments at Spangdahlem.
This is the second straight year the wing has been a part of the exercise in Romania. Last year, A-10 Warthogs from Spangdahlem participated in a similar exercise in which pilots worked on their close air support skills.
Staff Sgt. Michael Sacilowski, who does sheet-metal work for the 52nd Equipment Maintenance Squadron, said before leaving that he was excited about going on the short deployment.
“I love going over there, especially the [former] Eastern bloc countries,” he said. “They don’t have too much experience with Americans and when you get to interact with them, they’re just tickled about it. They get really excited and want to know everything [about Americans] and see what the differences are between the cultures. To me, that’s really exciting.”
Willis, a pilot with eight years of experience in the cockpit, has never been to Romania and also is looking forward to the experience.
“Who would’ve thought we’d be here where we’re at going to fly against MiG 21s in a former Cold War, behind-the-Iron-Curtain country?” he said. “It’s a unique opportunity.”