By 1st Lt. Micah Campbell, 137th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Airmen from the 138th Fighter Wing participated in Anakonda 16, the Polish-led, joint multinational exercise that took place across Poland June 7-17, 2016.
The unit’s F-16 “Fighting Falcon” aircraft, maintenance and operations personnel integrated with other F-16 units from the Polish Air Force and active-duty U.S. Air Force stationed in Aviano, Italy.
“The purpose of this exercise is to conduct complex training for multinational air assault and airborne operations while demonstrating our commitment to regional security for Poland as well as other Baltic allies,” said Lt. Col. Scott Key, commander of the 125th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron.
Despite weather challenges and language barriers, maintainers from the 138th Maintenance Group worked diligently to ensure their aircraft were mission-ready when called upon.
“Although there have been obstacles due to unforeseen circumstances, the 138th Maintenance Group has not wavered in their commitment to carry out this exercise,” said Capt. Quinton Tibbetts, commander of the 138th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron.
Tibbetts’ sentiment was echoed by multiple Airmen as they performed critical functions on the flight line.
“We’ve just had to adapt and remain flexible,” said Staff Sgt. Justin Turner, aerospace ground equipment specialist with the 138th Maintenance Squadron. “When we first got here, we didn’t have radios, so we just had to flag down Polish personnel to fuel our generators and other equipment.”
As operations progressed, the maintenance personnel developed better relationships with their Polish counterparts and discovered that many of the perceived barriers, such as language, weren’t as bad as they originally thought.
“It turns out they speak a lot better English than I speak Polish, that’s for sure,” said, Tech. Sgt. Joseph Brabson, a 138th munitions systems specialist.
For many Oklahoma Airmen, the European trip was their first opportunity to support an ally in the region. While their jobs remained the same despite a new location, the importance of their mission was ever present.
For Turner and others, the knowledge that their work helps foster relationships that improve the ability, readiness and interoperability of Polish Armed Forces with their Allies and partners kept them upbeat and performing at their best.
“We don’t get to see the big picture like the pilots do…,” said Brabson, “But we do know we are doing something important.”