CAMPIA TURZII, Romania --
Thousands of Romanian and European spectators marveled at aerial acrobatics in the skies and combat capability displays on the ground during an airshow and open house at Campia Turzii, Romania, July 23, 2016.
To the adults and children among the crowds, the spectacle served as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see military aircraft up close and shake hands and pose for selfies with the Airmen who fly and service those same planes.
And for those women and men of the Romanian air force's 71st Air Base and the U.S. Air Force's 194th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, the event marked another milestone in their ongoing mission to foster interoperability and strengthen the partnership between the two countries.
The aviation demonstration took place during the middle of the 194th EFS's six-month long theater security package deployment to Europe in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve, which aims to bolster the U.S.'s continued commitment to the collective security of NATO and its dedication to enduring peace and stability in the region.
The unit, comprised of more than 200 California Air National Guard Airmen from the 144th Fighter Wing at Fresno ANG Base, California, as well as U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 52nd Fighter Wing at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, piloted, maintained and supported the deployment of 12 F-15C Eagle fighter aircraft throughout nations including Romania, Iceland, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Estonia.
"It's important that our two great Air Forces fly and train together face to face," said CANG Maj. Gen. Jon Kelk, both the ANG mobilization assistant to the U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa commander and the commander, chief of staff of the CANG. "We can develop plans and strategies, but if the Romanian pilots are here and the U.S. pilots are here and we're not flying and training together, we're missing something. This exercise is a bilateral example for the U.S. and Romanian Air Forces that we are able to fly and train together face-to-face, and we all bring something unique and valuable to this training event."
The F-15Cs took to the skies alongside the 71st AB's MiG-21 fighter aircraft and Puma helicopters for both the airshow, the second engagement of its kind at Campia Turzii under Operation Atlantic Resolve, and the bilateral flight training, also known as Dacian Eagle 2016.
"Dacian Eagle 2016 continued the tradition of the bilateral Romanian-American exercises conducted at the 71st AB," said Romanian Air Force Col. Marius Ouatu, 71st AB commander. "The purpose of this exercise is increasing the level of preparedness and interoperability of the participants. The exercise is an opportunity for practicing the techniques, tactics and procedures associated with standard air operations in accordance with NATO standards through the execution of joint flights with our American partner."
Kelk added that the participation in Dacian Eagle as well as the airshow happened within a broader context of transatlantic operations, and that the emphasis on training was paramount.
"We learn from each other and how to operate together, and, in this day and age, interoperability is key to the larger goals of the NATO alliance," the general said. "These training deployments enable us to learn the capabilities of our aircraft and their aircraft, but more importantly, how we can take those aircraft and use them together to meet our objectives."
USAFE-AFAFRICA maintains its global presence based upon the Total Force cooperation among the active-duty, National Guard and Air Force Reserve components. The 194th EFS's participation in the current theater security package serves as one more iteration of the ANG's support for Operation Atlantic Resolve which began in March 2015.
Additionally, the National Guard State Partnership Program, which also includes theater security package deployments, provides support for combatant commanders’ security cooperation objectives. The current 32 SPP relationships among the U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command equal a fifth of all military-to-military activities within both theaters. USAFE-AFAFRICA leverages this interaction to promote airpower and increase interoperability with allies and partners in Europe and Africa.
California Army National Guard Maj. Gen. Matthew Beevers, deputy adjutant general of the California Military Department, also attended the event from the Golden State on behalf of the largest, most tasked National Guard force in the United States, with an authorized strength of 23,000 personnel.
"I think what we've learned today is that American fighters and Romanian fighters can fly and train together in this environment," Beevers said. "We're here today to reassure everyone across Europe that NATO, the American Air Force and the Romanian air force can work together cooperatively to deliver high value and demonstrate we have a good deterrent effect across Europe to deter aggression and reassure our partners."
Both generals visited with U.S. and Romanian Airmen including Romanian Maj. Gen. Laurian Anastasof, Chief of the Romanian air force Staff, and Mircea Dusa, former Romanian Minister of National Defense, while viewing the two countries' service members pilot dissimilar flight formations comprised of Eagles and MiGs.
The same aircraft also shared the skies with Romanian air forces C-27J Spartan cargo aircraft as Romanian land forces tanks, soldiers and joint terminal attack controllers conducted simulated combat and recovery scenarios on the ground.
And when the event ended and parents and children exited the base's gates, the Romanian and U.S. Airmen set out to resume further flight training with their focus on partnership strong through 2016 and beyond.
"I want to thank our hosts, both the Romanian air force and the Romanian people for their gracious hospitality," Kelk said. "This is a terrific event that we are so proud to be invited to. We are happy to be here today, and we thank all of you."