An unexpected reunion

LASK AIR BASE, Poland -- Not knowing the language spoken in the country where one may be presented many obstacles, that challenge can only multiply when learning to pilot an aircraft.

Despite these barriers, U.S. Air Force instructor pilots stationed overseas like Maj. Bradley Sullivan, 480th Fighter Squadron, teach their students to operate and maneuver F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft with speed, accuracy and power.

Sullivan previously trained numerous Polish air force pilots while at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, before moving to his current assignment at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany.

Serving as an instructor, Sullivan knows how bonds can form between teacher and student as both learn from one another about aircraft systems while strengthening NATO partnerships.

Eventually, they must say their goodbyes as training ends, departing for new adventures. But in today's Air Force, there remains a good chance instructors might run into former students, even from other countries. This recently happened to Sullivan as he took park in the Av-Det rotation during June 2014 in Poland.

"I was out here for a planning conference a couple months ago and ran into a couple of my previous students," Sullivan said. "Now, 5-to-6,000 miles to the east of where we had trained before, we're in the same building doing a similar mission."

"I never expected I would meet Major Sullivan in my country and in my town," said Polish air force 1st Lt. Tomasz Grzybowski, one of Major Sullivan's prior students. "And now we can share the same knowledge we got at Randolph."

Exercises held at the Av-Det focus on building interoperability between the United States and its NATO ally. This training expands upon a foundation of airmanship formed years ago during Grzybowski's training in America.

Students from around the world can learn the fundamentals of what it takes to be a pilot through the aid of instructors. Building upon the same basics learned in pilot school during training can lead to pilot's success as they may fly together in the future, no matter how high the odds of reuniting may seem.

"I never cease to be amazed anymore," Sullivan said. "I am beyond just believing in coincidence. It's neat to be here and experience that small-world feel. It was good to see familiar faces in a foreign country and have some of that background to develop upon."