Author: Air National Guard Senior Airman Sarah M. McClanahan
Photos by: U.S. Air National Guard Senior Airman Sarah M. McClanahan, Armed Forces of Bosnia-Herzegovina Pfc. Armin Hadzic, U.S Army National Guard Maj.Kurt M. Rauschenberg, & U.S. Army Spc. Natalee Ebanks
On a rainy afternoon, a speck appears on the horizon over the not-so-distant mountains surrounding the city of Tuzla, whose name translates as “place of salt.” Before long, lights appear as the tiny dot takes the shape of an aircraft. What touches down on the calm flight line of Tuzla International Airport is a military aircraft that has rarely been seen by the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina since the turn of the century.
The aircraft, a C-130H Hercules aircraft from the 179th Airlift Wing, Ohio Air National Guard, is just one way the United States has been working alongside their partners in this European country. Most importantly, this cargo aircraft represents a partnership between the United States and BiH that has been forged and strengthened since 2003.
“This U.S. Air Force aircraft is a symbol,” explains U.S. Army Lt. Col. Corey Shea, chief of the Office of Defense Cooperation at the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo. “It is a symbol of continued U.S. commitment to stability and security of BiH, continued U.S. commitment to the people of BiH. And, a symbol of a strong and enduring partnership with the Armed Forces of BiH, which we expect to continue.”
From Sept. 9-12, members of the U.S. Air Force and Army as well as the Maryland and Ohio National Guard, shared tactics, techniques and procedures with members of the AFBiH on public affairs and strategic communication, cargo loading and unloading procedures, and joint terminal attack controller (JTAC) operations.
“This is the NATO partnership in action,” said U.S. Ambassador Eric Nelson, U.S. Embassy in BiH. “This event is helping to enable the AFBiH to interoperate with NATO allies like the United States armed forces. It’s very important for future deployments of the AFBiH as trusted peace keepers, as trusted partners in the fight against counter-terrorism.”
When the C-130 aircraft touched down on the flight line on Monday, Sept. 9, it marked the start of the Silver Arrow in BiH training event. The two days that followed the initial arrival of the aircraft consisted of AFBiH members learning C-130 cargo loading and unloading procedures as well as instructions on JTAC operations – an entirely new capability for the AFBiH. The training event established an environment where participants engaged in realistic training scenarios, received hands-on experience, and the opportunity to develop skills in cooperation and teamwork.
Throughout the week, service members could be seen bustling around the flight line. A mix of languages could be heard over the sounds of ratchets clicking to secure cargo onto pallets, flight line radio communications, and the sounds of camera shutters snapping as both U.S. and AFBiH service members worked together as one team during the training event.
“So far, I have not had the opportunity to work with U.S. service members,” says Semira Kustura, 5th Battalion of Logistic Support platoon commander. “I am extremely honored to be a part of this team.”
Once the dust settled after the C-130 aircraft landed, members of the 179th Airlift Wing and the 435th Contingency Response Support Squadron, U.S. Air Forces in Europe Air Forces Africa, gave demonstrations on how to palletize cargo before moving the cargo onto or off of an aircraft. Using Humvees and pallets of supplies as real-life examples, the instructors walked the AFBiH members through the processes of loading and unloading cargo from a C-130 aircraft.
“We are really excited to learn from AFBiH, as well as teach tactics and some of the things we do,” explains U.S. Air Force Capt. Frank Zaunscherb, a C-130 pilot assigned to the 179th Airlift Wing, Ohio National Guard.
In addition to the cargo loading and unloading training, AFBiH members received training in JTAC operations. Beginning with presentations on specific tactics and procedures, the members then moved to the flight line to put some of the methods learned into practice. AFBiH members directed the flight path of one of the two UH-1H Iroquois helicopters from the 2nd Helicopter Squadron, Air Force Brigade, AFBiH. Using maps and radios, they guided the helicopter through several flights around the surrounding military base.
“This event is of great importance for the Armed Forces of BiH because, through the implementation of this exercise, BiH have in essence created new capabilities that are prescribed by JTAC,” says AFBiH Lt. Gen. Senad Mašović, Chief of Joint Staff AFBiH. “AFBiH gained a new ability that ensures more competent and secure performance of these missions while, through practical exercise, improving our capacity and cooperation with U.S. armed forces as our strategic partner.”
This JTAC training not only served the purpose of empowering the AFBiH with new operational capabilities, but it served to both strengthen the existing bi-lateral partnership between the two countries.
“I’m glad to be here on this exercise and to work with and meet our colleagues from the U.S. Air Force,” says AFBiH Sgt. Muhidin Pamuk, member of Unexploded Ordnance Company, Demining Battalion. “[I’m glad to] also [practice] the procedures we use for controlling aircraft. I’m always glad to learn new things and improve.”
Other capabilities were tested during the training event, the AFBiH public affairs team established a Media Information Center and tested their AFBiH strategic communication program. The Maryland National Guard’s Public Affairs Office assisted the AFBiH PA to draft a strategic communications plan back in June 2019. The combined joint PA team was able to create photos and videos, as well as written products and social media that were released to the public. The success of the MIC was determined through identified analytics, reach and engagement on social media, and placement in local and international news.
Prior to the official start of the training event, members from the MDNG PAO, the Special Operations Command Regional Information Support Team, and the AFBiH public affairs team finalized plans to provide full-spectrum combined-joint PA efforts throughout Silver Arrow in BiH.
“This [construct] was formed as a temporary MIC to support the Silver Arrow in BiH training event and to do the best job to present this event to the public,” says AFBiH Maj. Aleksandar Krunic, the deputy MIC officer. “Making this MIC a permanent structure would be a good idea and would allow for more effective public affairs in AFBiH.”
The MIC was split into several teams dedicated to specific functions such as media relations, online media to include social media, and photo/video production. The MIC was staffed and run by AFBiH members while the U.S. members provided guidance and assistance when needed. The smaller events throughout the week helped to prepare the members of the MIC for the culminating event on the final day. A day that they would put everything they have learned into practice.
On the final day of Silver Arrow in BiH the AFBiH PA hosted an open house event at Tuzla International Airport where an overview of AFBiH operational capabilities, vehicles, weapons, and equipment were displayed for distinguished visitors and local civilians. The attendants of the open house included members of the BiH Presidency, senior officials of the US Embassy in BiH and representatives of civilian authorities. Representatives of the Ministry of Defense of BiH, the Joint Staff of the AFBiH, commands and units of the AFBiH and students of primary and secondary schools from the Tuzla region were also present.
This was the event where the AFBiH could show all of their hard work and capabilities. Cellphones are out in abundance as photos are taken with service members and distinguished visitors. Excited children gaze in awe at the aircraft, tanks, and other vehicles and equipment on display. For some of the attendants, this was the first time they were able to see and learn what the AFBiH can do.
“For me the real important piece of this mission is it provided an opportunity for the AFBiH to demonstrate its capabilities to it’s own population,” explains Shea. “We live in a day and age where few militaries do everything on their own. The AFBiH with their limited resources provide a lot of services to their population. But, your average Bosnian citizen doesn’t know that.”
Following the end of the open house event, cargo is loaded one final time onto the C-130 aircraft. The sound of the engine’s roar is almost deafening as it taxis into position on the flight line. As the aircraft takes off, departing the airport, it quickly becomes a speck over the surrounding hills once again — marking the end of the Silver Arrow in BiH training event.
“As this bi-lateral exercise comes to an end and we feel the comfortable fatigue of a hard job well done. The departure of the aircraft signals the end of a chapter in what is an enduring story and that’s a story of partnership,” says Shea. “While the aircraft has launched successfully and the engagement has concluded successfully, the partnership endures.”
Editor: U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Thaddeus Harrington
|Date Posted:||09.15.2019 15:50|
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