NEVATIM AIR FORCE BASE, Israel — It's not every day you get to see an American flag flying next to the Israeli flag, but during a 10-day training and exercise mission here, it was common to see Airmen walking around with not only the American flag on their shoulder but also the Israeli national flag.
Members from Ramstein Air Base in Germany participated in the exercise Dec. 1-10 to accomplish various training requirements for the C-130J Super Hercules which are not allowed in Germany because of country regulations.
"Training is hard to achieve in Germany because of the air space restrictions," said Capt. Sarah Santoro, 37th Airlift Squadron mission commander for the Israel off-station training. "Some of the things we were able to accomplish in Israel were dirt landings and low-level flying. This is a great training opportunity as the environment has similarities to where we would deploy to, such as Africa or the Middle East."
During the training, the 37th AS was able to get many pilots qualified on training necessities.
"Everything has gone well," Santoro said. "One of the main things we have been able to achieve is seasoning with the J-model since we are still learning the plane. It has allowed us to become more familiar with the airplane."
And, for some, the training was a first.
"Many of the pilots had never done a dirt landing, so they were excited to have the chance," Santoro said.
Since the arrival of the first J-model aircraft to Ramstein in April, the 37th AS has continued to build on their familiarity with the airplane.
"We are a young squadron new to the J-model, and we are continually building experience for our pilots and crews," the captain added.
From the 37th AS to the 86th Operations Support Squadron, the 86th Maintenance Squadron to the 435th Contingency Response Group, many Ramstein units participated in the exercise.
More than 100 people participated in the training, each contributing their part to the mission.
"You cannot do an effort all by yourself," Santoro said. "Everyone participating has worked hard and it shows. From the MXS, to OSS and the CRG, they have helped make it happen."
With everyone working together, they were able to learn how other squadrons operate.
"This is my first TDY [temporary duty] with the 37th AS, and I have really enjoyed working with them," said Senior Airman Chris Tate, 86th OSS aircrew flight equipment. "I have been able to appreciate and see what the CRG does and learn more about their job. And, they have also taken a look to see what we do."
While in Israel, many of Airmen were also able to work closely and build partnerships with the Israeli military members, something which many said was a highlight of their trip.
"The Israelis were eager to host us as they are supposed to be getting J-models in the near future," Santoro said. "They seem impressed with the airplanes. The Israelis have been a phenomenal partner. The interaction has allowed us to take away and learn a lot."
Despite the difference in language, it didn't impact how the aircrews operated in the air, the captain said.
"I've found aircrew are aircrew no matter what flag is on their shoulder," she added. "Once you get them in the plane, instincts kick in."
Not only did the airmen take away knowledge from their Israeli counterparts, but the Israelis were also able to learn a great deal.
"Working with the Americans has been a great opportunity and learning experience for us," Israeli Air Force Reserve Warrant Officer Amit Ronen said. "It has allowed us to see what we will be working with in the future. We have also been able to see how Americans work with the aircraft, and show them the way we do things."