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Sabers return from Trident Juncture

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U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons return to Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, after completing Exercise Trident Juncture 18, Nov. 9, 2018. The exercise occurred in Norway and Iceland and the airspace of Finland, Sweden, the North Atlantic and Baltic Sea. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Branden Rae)

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U.S. Air Force Maj. Kevin Bunten, 480th fighter squadron pilot, returns from Exercise Trident Juncture 18, while his children wait for him to depart from an F-16 Fighting Falcon, at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, Nov. 9, 2018. The exercise was designed to ensure NATO forces are able to operate together and be ready to respond to any threat. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Branden Rae)

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U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Joshua Briggs, 480th Fighter Squadron pilot, greets his family, returning from Exercise Trident Juncture 18 at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, Nov. 9, 2018. Airmen from Spangdahlem Air Base were temporarily assigned to this exercise for approximately 22 days. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Branden Rae)

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U.S. Air Force Capt. Charlie Meier, 480th Fighter Squadron pilot, greets his family, after returning from Exercise Trident Juncture 18 at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, Nov. 9, 2018. The 480th FS participated in Trident Junture 18, the largest NATO exercise since 2002, along side 31 allied and partner nations with more than 50,000 participants. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Branden Rae)

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U.S. Air Force Maj. Kevin Bunten, 480th Fighter Squadron pilot, embraces his children after returning from Exercise Trident Juncture 18 at Sweden to Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, Nov. 9, 2018. Families join their Airmen as they return home from their three week assignment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Branden Rae)

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U.S. Air Force Capt. Charlie Meier, 480th Fighter Squadron pilot, greets his children after returning from Exercise Trident Juncture 18 at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, Nov. 9, 2018. Participation in the exercise was to plan and conduct major collective defense operations to evaluate and test NATO's collective abilities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Branden Rae)

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Member's of the 52nd Fighter Wing return to Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, from Exercise Trident Juncture 18, Nov. 9, 2018. More than 300 Airmen from Spangdahlem participated in this exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Branden Rae)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany --

Exercise Trident Juncture 2018 lasted from Oct. 25 through Nov. 7, 2018. Operating out of Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and North Atlantic and the Baltic Sea, the exercise focused on NATO and partner forces working together to respond to any threat across the spectrum of military operations in land, sea, and air.


“Being able to come up here as an Expeditionary Fighter Squadron and successfully execute the mission is a big win in my book,” said Lt. Col. Michael Richard, 480th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron commander. “Because this is how a squadron is going to deploy in combat.”

Airmen from the 52nd Fighter Wing forward deployed from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, to Kallax Air Base, Sweden, working together under the banner of the 480th EFS.

“The ability that our team and their team [Sweden] were able to integrate, interoperate and create a setup where we can very rapidly get into place and begin simulated combat operations, that part was outstanding,” said Col. Jason Bailey, 52nd Fighter Wing commander.

Col. Bailey went on to talk about the importance of being an airpower partner with NATO and its partners, and the importance of how well the 480th EFS was able to operate within the exercise construct. Making effective tactical gains and handling the different scenarios that were developed while coming up with tactical solutions by mission commanders to execute the mission while learning from each other.

“During our time here we were able to knock out a couple mission commander upgrades,” said Richard. “Which is an opportunity we normally don’t get to do back at home station.”

Capt. Matthew Zimmer, a 480th EFS pilot, who was one of two pilots that was upgraded to a mission commander explained that the upgrade is a program to get someone to a point where they can plan and lead a large force in a combat scenario, this process includes academics and hands-on demonstrations.

“To be considered to enter the program it takes a while,” said Zimmer. “You have to be able to show you can make decisions that can potentially impact multiple aircraft.”

There were a lot of moving parts in this exercise with more than 50,000 participants, 250 aircraft, 65 vessels and more than 10,000 vehicles included in the exercise.

“Capt. Zimmer showed the right kind of tactical leadership that matters during a conflict,” said Bailey. “Being able to demonstrate that for our NATO partners and our alliance members is a big success.”

This was the largest NATO exercise since 2002 which had 31 allies and partner nations working together for a common goal of security and stability.