Oregon Airmen train in Finland
By Tech. Sgt. Jefferson Thompson, 173rd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published May 18, 2016
KUOPIO, Finland -- More than 100 Oregon Air National Guard Airmen from the 173rd Fighter Wing at Kingsley Field, Ore. traveled to Kuopio, Finland for a training opportunity between two partner countries.
The exercise is part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, but differs from other deployments to the region called theater security packages in that it is really a training opportunity between partner nations--Finland and the United States.
The 173rd Fighter Wing is the sole F-15C training unit for the United States Air Force, and its main mission is to introduce Airmen to the F-15C for the first time or requalify pilots from non-flying positions or other airframes. 173rd Fighter Wing Commander Col. Jeff Smith said that expertise proved valuable in this environment.
"At home with our students we use a building block approach beginning with one-verses-one scenarios and progressing to two-verses-two and so on, and that format is how we are conducting this exercise beginning with the smallest block, getting familiar with each other's tactics and working to cross the language barrier," he said. "By the end of next week we'll be training in large force exercises, possibly as many as eight-verses-eight."
Lt. Col. Alaric Michaelis, 173rd FW F-15 instructor pilot, says that in more than 19 years of flying the F-15 this training experience is near the top.
"The fighter pilots from Finland are the best international fighter pilots that I, in my career, have flown with," he said. "It's not just their ability, but their want, their tenacity, and their grit to get better."
Another high point the American pilots are quick to point out is the first-class way the Finns have welcomed them.
"Personally this has been my favorite trip I've ever been on," said Maj. Kevin Welch, an instructor pilot with the 173rd Fighter Wing. "To see the work ethic of the younger guys--to see the intensity of the older guys to help make them better is amazing!"
Over the final week of the training exercise the Finns and the Americans will practice a large scale exercise against the Swedish air force; Welch says it will put to the test everything they have learned in the last 10 days.