US, Poland integrate flying capabilities

A 555th Fighter Squadron F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft from Aviano Air Base’s 31st Fighter Wing takes off for a joint-theater training mission with Polish air forces, April 1, 2014, from Łask Air Base, Poland. Poland continues to build its relationship with the U.S. as both nations' air forces integrate their capabilities through training sorties in a joint theater capacity for the first time since the arrival of 31st Fighter Wing aircraft and personnel. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ryan Conroy/Released)

A 555th Fighter Squadron F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft from Aviano Air Base’s 31st Fighter Wing takes off for a joint-theater training mission with Polish air forces, April 1, 2014, from Łask Air Base, Poland. Poland continues to build its relationship with the U.S. as both nations' air forces integrate their capabilities through training sorties in a joint theater capacity for the first time since the arrival of 31st Fighter Wing aircraft and personnel. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ryan Conroy/Released)

A Polish F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft passes a static display of an F-16 after takeoff, April 1, 2014, at Łask Air Base, Poland. The Polish armed forces and approximately 200 U.S. personnel have built partnership capacity together here since March 13, to increase cooperation and strengthen operational understanding of the other’s military processes, strengthening interoperability with a key NATO ally. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ryan Conroy/Released)

A Polish F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft passes a static display of an F-16 after takeoff, April 1, 2014, at Łask Air Base, Poland. The Polish armed forces and approximately 200 U.S. personnel have built partnership capacity together here since March 13, to increase cooperation and strengthen operational understanding of the other’s military processes, strengthening interoperability with a key NATO ally. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ryan Conroy/Released)

Two Polish air force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft fly in formation during a training mission, April 1, 2014, over Łask Air Base, Poland. Poland continues to build its relationship with the U.S. as both nations' air forces train in a joint theater capacity for the first time since the arrival of 31st Fighter Wing aircraft and personnel from Aviano Air Base, Italy. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ryan Conroy/Released)

Two Polish air force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft fly in formation during a training mission, April 1, 2014, over Łask Air Base, Poland. Poland continues to build its relationship with the U.S. as both nations' air forces train in a joint theater capacity for the first time since the arrival of 31st Fighter Wing aircraft and personnel from Aviano Air Base, Italy. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ryan Conroy/Released)

U.S. and Polish pilots listen to a pre-flight briefing, April 1, 2014, prior to their first training sortie together at Łask Air Base, Poland. Some of the training will focus on communication effectiveness and familiarization of techniques to strengthen interoperability with a key NATO ally since the 555th Fighter Squadron from Aviano Air Base, Italy, and the Polish air force’s 10th Tactical Squadron from Łask employ the F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ryan Conroy/Released)

U.S. and Polish pilots listen to a pre-flight briefing, April 1, 2014, prior to their first training sortie together at Łask Air Base, Poland. Some of the training will focus on communication effectiveness and familiarization of techniques to strengthen interoperability with a key NATO ally since the 555th Fighter Squadron from Aviano Air Base, Italy, and the Polish air force’s 10th Tactical Squadron from Łask employ the F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ryan Conroy/Released)

Polish air force Lt. Col. Marcin Modrzewski, 10th Fighter Squadron pilot, starts to put on his aircrew flight equipment, April 1, 2014, prior to the first training sortie between U.S. and Polish air force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter pilots at Łask Air Base, Poland. The Polish armed forces and approximately 200 U.S. personnel have worked together here since March 13, to increase cooperation and strengthen operational understanding of the other’s military processes, strengthening interoperability with a key NATO ally. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ryan Conroy/Released)

Polish air force Lt. Col. Marcin Modrzewski, 10th Fighter Squadron pilot, starts to put on his aircrew flight equipment, April 1, 2014, prior to the first training sortie between U.S. and Polish air force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter pilots at Łask Air Base, Poland. The Polish armed forces and approximately 200 U.S. personnel have worked together here since March 13, to increase cooperation and strengthen operational understanding of the other’s military processes, strengthening interoperability with a key NATO ally. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ryan Conroy/Released)

A Polish F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft takes off for a training mission with U.S. Air Force F-16s, April 1, 2014, at Łask Air Base, Poland. Poland continues to build its relationship with the U.S. as both nations' air forces integrate their capabilities through training sorties in a joint theater capacity for the first time since the arrival of 31st Fighter Wing aircraft and personnel from Aviano Air Base, Italy. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ryan Conroy/Released)

A Polish F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft takes off for a training mission with U.S. Air Force F-16s, April 1, 2014, at Łask Air Base, Poland. Poland continues to build its relationship with the U.S. as both nations' air forces integrate their capabilities through training sorties in a joint theater capacity for the first time since the arrival of 31st Fighter Wing aircraft and personnel from Aviano Air Base, Italy. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ryan Conroy/Released)

U.S. and Polish pilots listen to a pre-flight briefing, April 1, 2014, prior to their first training sortie together at Łask Air Base, Poland. Some of the training will focus on communication effectiveness and familiarization of techniques to strengthen interoperability with a key NATO ally since the 555th Fighter Squadron from Aviano Air Base, Italy, and the Polish air force’s 10th Tactical Squadron from Łask employ the F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ryan Conroy/Released)

U.S. and Polish pilots listen to a pre-flight briefing, April 1, 2014, prior to their first training sortie together at Łask Air Base, Poland. Some of the training will focus on communication effectiveness and familiarization of techniques to strengthen interoperability with a key NATO ally since the 555th Fighter Squadron from Aviano Air Base, Italy, and the Polish air force’s 10th Tactical Squadron from Łask employ the F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ryan Conroy/Released)

Staff Sgt. Ryan Galler, 555th Air Maintenance Unit crew chief, Aviano Air Base, Italy, from Orlando, Fla., prepares a U.S. F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft to fly with the Polish air force April 1, 2014, at Łask Air Base, Poland. Polish and U.S. personnel are training together to enhance bilateral defense ties and ready air forces demonstrating an enduring partnership to the NATO mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Katrina Cheesman/Released)

Staff Sgt. Ryan Galler, 555th Air Maintenance Unit crew chief, Aviano Air Base, Italy, from Orlando, Fla., prepares a U.S. F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft to fly with the Polish air force April 1, 2014, at Łask Air Base, Poland. Polish and U.S. personnel are training together to enhance bilateral defense ties and ready air forces demonstrating an enduring partnership to the NATO mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Katrina Cheesman/Released)

First Lt. Matthew Alexander, 555th Fighter Squadron pilot, Aviano Air Base, Italy, completes his pre-flight check in a U.S. F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft, before joining his Polish wingman in the skies above Łask Air Base, Poland, April 1, 2014. The Polish armed forces and approximately 200 U.S. personnel have worked together here since March 13, to increase cooperation and strengthen operational understanding of the other’s military processes, strengthening interoperability with a key NATO ally. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Katrina Cheesman/Released)

First Lt. Matthew Alexander, 555th Fighter Squadron pilot, Aviano Air Base, Italy, completes his pre-flight check in a U.S. F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft, before joining his Polish wingman in the skies above Łask Air Base, Poland, April 1, 2014. The Polish armed forces and approximately 200 U.S. personnel have worked together here since March 13, to increase cooperation and strengthen operational understanding of the other’s military processes, strengthening interoperability with a key NATO ally. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Katrina Cheesman/Released)

LASK AIR BASE, Poland -- Poland continues to build its relationship with the U.S. as both nations' air forces integrated their capabilities through training sorties in a joint theater capacity, April 1, 2014, for the first time since the arrival of U.S. aircraft and personnel to the U.S. Air Force Aviation Detachment 1 here.

While today is the first day of joint theater training sorties, Polish and American pilots have been taking steps toward flying together since members of the 31st Fighter Wing, Aviano Air Base, Italy, arrived here March 13. From day one, the 555th Fighter Squadron integrated with Polish counterparts during ground training, briefings, academics and preparations to begin the flying training.

The training is in line with NATO objectives and defense responsibilities to U.S. allies.

"Bilateral training is essential for future operations within NATO responsibilities," said Lt. Col. John Peterson, 555th FS commander. "When we execute operations in possible real-world situations, we need to have trained with our fellow NATO nations. You want to develop those tactics, techniques and procedures beforehand to achieve a truly cohesive combat capability with our Polish counterparts."

Since both Aviano's 555th FS and Łask's 10th Tactical Squadron employ the F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft, some of the training will focus on communication effectiveness and familiarization of techniques.

"Today, we're beginning to integrate the Polish into our training with tactical intercepts," said Capt. Kirby Sanford, 555th FS chief of training. "We take two Polish F-16s and two U.S. F-16s and fly in a four-ship. We go in and tactically intercept any unknown aircraft and try to identify them. It's a very basic mission set, but it's going to allow us to work through any communication or airspace barriers we may have."

The scenarios become more complex as the training continues throughout the week. To complete the more advanced objectives, the allied force must work seamlessly while airborne.

"We're going to start integrating a challenging, dynamic situation with multiple adversaries trying to attack a single point, and our objective with the Polish will be to try and work together to defend that point," said Sanford.

Reflecting upon previous training missions with NATO allies, Sanford realizes influential lessons learned through bilateral integration.

"I flew with Bulgarian aircraft in 2012 and with the Portuguese F-16s a month ago. There are so many lessons learned, and each one provides insight to how we are able to effectively pick up our entire operation and be ready to train or fight within a matter of days in a different NATO country," said Sanford. "The most important piece of information I've learned is that each country brings something to the fight. In my opinion, that's what makes our coalition efforts so effective."

The Polish air force implemented the use of F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft to their inventory in the last ten years. Łask's 32nd Tactical Air Base commander relays his excitement to train with U.S. forces, due to what his base has to offer during rotations to Poland.

"The first time we had interaction with the U.S. in 2004, our position was completely different than it is now," said Polish air force Col. Ireneusz Nowak, 32nd TAB commander. "At that time, we were just observers of the American fighters, and now we have the ability to fully participate."

The Av-Det sustains an enduring U.S. presence in Poland and continues to train with Polish armed forces during quarterly rotations of aircraft. C-130J Super Hercules aircrew and support staff are currently training with Polish counterparts at Powidz Air Base, Poland.