Vienna Document tour encourages transparency

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- More than 60 delegates from nearly 60 countries will visit Spangdahlem Air Base June 27, 2013, to gain an understanding of the daily maintenance and operations of a combat air base.

The visit is part of the Vienna Document 11 agreement, which is a politically binding measure designed to enhance confidence and security among the participating nations.

"It's all about trust," said David Ehnis, 52nd Fighter Wing treaty compliance officer. "By virtue of participating, we're showing exactly what we do here, so that no one suspects that there are other things going on behind our fence line."

Participating countries include nations with air forces that operate in the territories, surrounding sea areas and air spaces of Europe and central Asia. In the spirit of transparency, the nations invite delegates from all the affected nations to visit their combat air bases every five years. The open demonstrations of military capabilities and resources are designed to foster trust, which in turn enhances regional peace and stability.

"Treaties and agreements like this are essential for the stability of Europe," Ehnis said. "Historically, this region has seen militaries stockpile their munitions and equipment at borders in preparation for a surprise attack against neighboring countries. This isn't the case anymore, and we do everything we can to be transparent and eliminate suspicions."

The delegates will tour different areas of the base to observe the 52nd Fighter Wing's daily opertaions. The delegates then discuss, based on the wing's performance, whether or not the U.S. government has met the obligations of the Vienna Document 11.

Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, and Aviano Air Base, Italy, were the other U.S. Air Forces in Europe bases that hosted the Vienna Document tours in 1998, 2003 and 2009. This will be the first time that Spangdahlem will directly support the agreement.