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Capt. Diallo Creal, of the 81st Fighter Squadron out of Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, briefs Slovakian media representatives Wednesday on the A-10 Thunderbolt II fighter jet during a weapons training deployment in Slovakia.

Capt. Diallo Creal, of the 81st Fighter Squadron out of Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, briefs Slovakian media representatives Wednesday on the A-10 Thunderbolt II fighter jet during a weapons training deployment in Slovakia. (Courtesy of U.S. Air Force)

Capt. Diallo Creal, of the 81st Fighter Squadron out of Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, briefs Slovakian media representatives Wednesday on the A-10 Thunderbolt II fighter jet during a weapons training deployment in Slovakia.

Capt. Diallo Creal, of the 81st Fighter Squadron out of Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, briefs Slovakian media representatives Wednesday on the A-10 Thunderbolt II fighter jet during a weapons training deployment in Slovakia. (Courtesy of U.S. Air Force)

Staff Sgt. Jeremy Baldwin, of the 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron out of Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, marshals in an A-10 Thunderbolt II fighter jet Wednesday piloted by Capt. Tim Sumja, of Spangdahlem's 81st Fighter Squadron. The 81st, along with support personnel deployed to Malacky for a nearly three-week weapons training deployment.

Staff Sgt. Jeremy Baldwin, of the 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron out of Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, marshals in an A-10 Thunderbolt II fighter jet Wednesday piloted by Capt. Tim Sumja, of Spangdahlem's 81st Fighter Squadron. The 81st, along with support personnel deployed to Malacky for a nearly three-week weapons training deployment. (Courtesy of U.S. Air Force)

A-10 Thunderbolt II fighter aircraft from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany's 81st Fighter Squadron line up on a ramp Wednesday at Malacky Air Base, Slovakia. The 81st, along with support personnel deployed to Malacky for a nearly three-week weapons training deployment.

A-10 Thunderbolt II fighter aircraft from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany's 81st Fighter Squadron line up on a ramp Wednesday at Malacky Air Base, Slovakia. The 81st, along with support personnel deployed to Malacky for a nearly three-week weapons training deployment. (Courtesy of U.S. Air Force)

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — In nearly six years as an A-10 Thunderbolt II crew chief, Staff Sgt. Jeremy Baldwin had never seen the warplanes unleash their firepower.

Baldwin, 24, stationed at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, had been on plenty of exercises and served in Afghanistan last year. But it wasn’t until a training trip to Slovakia that he got to watch the planes practice the missions he’d always prepared them for.

“It makes you appreciate all the work you do on a daily basis. You can see the effort you put into making this job happen,” said Baldwin, 24, of Castle Rock, Wash.

Baldwin is among 190 members of Spangdahlem’s 81st Fighter Squadron wrapping up a three-week exercise in Slovakia. At Malacky Air Base near Bratislava, Baldwin watched from the flight line as A-10 pilots swooped over their targets and dropped inert bombs, then swung back and fired Gatling gun barrages.

Most of the time, pilots take their aircraft on far-flung, real-world missions out the crew chiefs’ line of sight. And most exercises launch from a base to a weapons range far away, Baldwin said.

At Malacky, the A-10 crew got a front-row seat.

Training at the Kuchyna Range offers pilots of eight 81st A-10s an opportunity to practice deploying as a unit to a bare-bones base, pilot Capt. Diallo Creal said. The amenities are better than the tent-living in Afghanistan, but not as comfortable as in Germany, he said.

In the three-week exercise, Creal and 19 other A-10 pilots flew 16 sorties a day and fired 200-400 rounds a day from the 30-mm Gatling gun, he said.

The pilots dropped BDU-33s, an inert bomb about the size of a bread loaf that sends up a puff of smoke when it hits. Cameras set up along the range record the accuracy of the hits.

“It’s a test run for when we go on our next deployment,” said Creal, 30, of Atlanta. The 81st will likely be tapped for a Middle East tour later this summer, a Spangdahlem spokesman said.

“We’re not being shot at here,” Creal said. “You can’t simulate everything. But it is good practice for wherever we end up going next.”


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