German airmen host New Year Reception at Holloman AFB
By JANESSA MAXILOM | Alamogordo Daily News, N.M. | Published: January 31, 2014
ALAMOGORDO, N.M. — After successfully facing major restructuring processes in 2013, the German Air Force Flying Training Center at Holloman Air Force Base hopes to continue its prosperity in the New Year.
On Wednesday, the GAF celebrated a New Year's Reception event with military and civilian leaders at the Desert Sands Enlisted Club at Holloman. GAFFTC Commander Col. Heinz J. Ferkinghoff gave a speech during the event and addressed the changes the GAF faced in the previous year.
Last year, the GAFFTC became the headquarters for the entire GAF Command in the Continental Untied States. Ferkinghoff, who was the former commander of the GAF Command USA/CAN in El Paso, transitioned his responsibilities.
"With the deactivation of the command at Fort Bliss at the end of September last year, the GAF responsibilities for the U.S. and Canada were assigned to the new GAFFTC," Ferkinghoff said. "Essentially, I brought my responsibilities with me to my new office here at Holloman.
"Now that the Flying Training Center has new responsibilities, it has slightly grown in size and has doubled its number of full colonels from one to two," he said.
He said that Col. Armin Havenith, his predecessor, now works as the vice commander for the GAFFTC at Holloman.
Ferkinghoff expressed pride in the GAF's ability to professionally execute missions last year.
"The Flying Training Center had a very successful year in 2013," he said. "All assigned training tasks were accomplished on time or earlier."
He said the GAFFTC accomplished a challenging deployment to Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. He added that the GAF had favorable visits from the Chief of Staff of the German Air Force Lt. Gen. Karl Müllner and from German Ambassador to the U.S. Dr. Peter Ammon.
He said the first GAFFTC Oktoberfest held in the City of Alamogordo last year was a success and that the GAFFTC airmen are looking to replicate last year's success and even improve upon it this year.
"Looking to the future, 2014 will have some new challenges for us at the GAFFTC," he said. "First of all, we will get two more Tornado jets assigned to Holloman to slightly increase the number of flying hours."
According to the GAFFTC public affairs office, the GAFFTC will increase from 14 Tornados to 16 Tornados this year.
"Several air crews will be assigned temporarily to Holloman within the first half of the year to take advantage of the tremendous flying possibilities the airspace around Holloman offers," Ferkinghoff said.
He also gave some insight to German politics and news by explaining that for the first time in history, a female has assumed the title of Secretary of Defense. He said Secretary of Defenses Ursula von der Leyen and German Chancellor Angela Merkel formed a new coalition between Christian and social democrats.
"This means for us that further realignment decisions for the German Armed Forces have to be expected within the next 6 to 12 months," he said. "An increase in budget and manpower is rather unlikely."
Ferkinghoff ended his speech by toasting to the continued cooperation between the U.S. and Germany.
"We continue a great relationship with the German Air Force and it's probably the strongest we have with all the NATO countries," 49th Wing Commander Col. Andrew Croft said.
White Sands Missile Range Commander Major General Gwen Bingham said the GAF and WSMR have had a wonderful relationship over the years and that she looks forward to continued engagement.
"One of the things I love about functions like this is the wonderful camaraderie that we share at these events," Bingham said.
U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 49th and 849th Aircraft Maintenance Squadrons and members of the German Air Force Flying Training Center 2nd Maintenance Line lift a Tornado off the ground during a joint crash-recovery exercise on the flight-line of Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., Sept. 14, 2012.
MICHAEL SHOEMAKER/USAF FILE PHOTO