Successful exercise enhances global bonds, interoperability

KONYA, Turkey -- An F-16 Fighting Falcon from the 480th Fighter Squadron takes off during Exercise Anatolian Falcon 2012, March 12. During the bilateral training exercise the 480th FS flew missions with the Turkish air force to practice air interdiction, attack, air superiority, defense suppression, airlift, air refueling and reconnaissance. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Benjamin Wilson)

KONYA, Turkey -- An F-16 Fighting Falcon from the 480th Fighter Squadron takes off during Exercise Anatolian Falcon 2012, March 12. During the bilateral training exercise the 480th FS flew missions with the Turkish air force to practice air interdiction, attack, air superiority, defense suppression, airlift, air refueling and reconnaissance. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Benjamin Wilson)

KONYA, Turkey -- Airmen from Spangdahlem Air Base who participated in Anatolian Falcon 2012 pose for a group photo on the flightline here March 14. The U.S. and Turkish air forces were flying together during AF12 in an effort to strengthen relationships and ensure regional peace and stability. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Benjamin Wilson)

KONYA, Turkey -- Airmen from Spangdahlem Air Base who participated in Anatolian Falcon 2012 pose for a group photo on the flightline here March 14. The U.S. and Turkish air forces were flying together during AF12 in an effort to strengthen relationships and ensure regional peace and stability. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Benjamin Wilson)

KONYA, Turkey -- Lt. Col. Paul Murray, 480th Fighter Squadron commander, speaks to Airmen from Spangdahlem Air Base who participated in Anatolian Falcon 2012 on the flightline here March 14. The U.S. and Turkish air forces were flying together during AF12 in an effort to strengthen relationships and ensure regional peace and stability. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Benjamin Wilson)

KONYA, Turkey -- Lt. Col. Paul Murray, 480th Fighter Squadron commander, speaks to Airmen from Spangdahlem Air Base who participated in Anatolian Falcon 2012 on the flightline here March 14. The U.S. and Turkish air forces were flying together during AF12 in an effort to strengthen relationships and ensure regional peace and stability. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Benjamin Wilson)

KONYA, Turkey -- Anatolian Falcon 2012, a bilateral training exercise between the Turkish and the U.S. air forces, ended here March 16.

The exercise was designed to strengthen military interoperability between the two nations and test the air forces' abilities to conduct a variety of air missions to include interdiction, attack, air superiority, defense suppression, airlift, air refueling and reconnaissance.

"There are a lot of successes we had here besides just the general exchange of tactics," said Lt. Col. Paul Murray, 480th Fighter Squadron commander. "Probably the most important success we've had towards interoperability is the personal relationships we've made. Those personal relationships are the key to interoperability."

Murray said Turkey is one of the strongest allies the U.S. has in that region. U.S. Air Forces in Europe is committed to building longstanding relationships with nations like Turkey, and the trust of the two NATO partners allows for these mass training opportunities. The bonds are further strengthened by sharing specific military tactics.

The 480th FS is the only unit in USAFE whose specialty is the suppression of enemy air defenses. The squadron enhances regional stability by working and training with the Turkish air force in that combat skill.

"That skillset is an important one we bring to the joint fight, combined fight and coalition fight," Murray said. "That was what we were able to focus on here. But for the most part, every mission that we could be called on to do for the combatant commander, we got to practice here."

The pilots' skill with air-to-air and SEAD missions had deteriorated from the lapse in practice during a deployment to Iraq from April to October 2011. The mission of their deployment focused on just one combat facet: close air support.

The squadron began rebuilding their other skillsets upon returning to Germany in October. However, there are only a finite number of aircraft available to train with or against for air-to-air and SEAD missions.

Lt. Col. Aaron Piepkorn, 480th FS director of operations, called the joint training a graduate-level exercise for requalification and reconstitution.

"We've used building blocks to get to where we are now," he said of the training within the squadron before joining the Turks for AF12. "It was crawl, walk and run to get current. Now, we're more proficient in those missions as tested by the more complex scenarios here.

"This exercise was the top of our training," he continued. "We got to employ those skillsets against large forces, and now we're fully deployable should we need to go."