USAF ‘Grim Reapers’ from RAF Lakenheath take part in training deployment in Estonia
- Credit: Senior Airman Erin Trower
A USAF squadron based in Suffolk has returned from Estonia after completing a training mission with European nations.
The 493rd Fighter Squadron 'Grim Reapers', based at RAF Lakenheath, joined the 194th Expeditionary Flying Squadron 'Griffins' from the California Air National Guard in the flying training deployment (FTD) at Amari Air Base.
The Reapers and Griffins flew alongside allied nations in the exercise, designed to improve coordination and cooperation between the units.
The Reapers and Griffins participated in the FTD with Estonian, Swedish, Finnish and UK aircraft and personnel, testing their capabilities against each other. More than 300 airmen participated in the deployment, which saw pilots take to the air for training tasks in F15-C Eagles from RAF Lakenheath.
According to Lt Col Jason Zumwalt, 493rd Fighter Squadron commander, bringing the five nations together to train effectively took time, but was well worth the effort.
'When you start out with a new team with a bunch of members who have never worked together, there's that awkward phase where you're not very good working together and performance is low.
'We are always trying to get to know each other and find out what each group's strengths and weaknesses are, and, once that happens, the team performs very well together,' he said.
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Lt Col Robert Swertfager, 194th EFS commander, said: 'It was a tremendous opportunity for the Griffins to train and integrate with the Reapers.
'The amount of instructor time and the amount of support we got from the 493rd was top shelf.'