MIRGOROD AIR BASE, UKRAINE– Mirgorod Air Base opened its doors to the media and a few key military leaders on July 22, highlighting the historic significance and achievements of SAFE SKIES 2011.
During his opening remarks the Commander of the Alabama Air National Guard, Maj. Gen. Paul Brown, shared, “This historic event is truly the collaborative model that the United States of America will look to duplicate throughout Europe and perhaps the world.” This event is tied to the U.S. National Guard’s State Partnership Program, in which U.S. states and territories have partnered with foreign nations to enhance collaboration and communication and help achieve shared objectives.
“I’ve been so impressed by how easily the Air Guard team has integrated with the Ukrainian Air Force,” said Brown. “This team of Air Guard members has been able to both work together amongst the 5 states represented, but also excel within this joint-country event…this event truly highlights the relevance and strength of the Air Guard.”
Four generals were able to meet and discuss the importance of the US-Ukrainian collaboration as it pertains to the future and how significant it is considering the countries’ past relationship.
“This program is all about building relationships,” said Maj. Gen. Don Ralph, the Mobilization Assistant to the United States Air Forces in Europe. “We are learning how to build a team… a team that can better protect the airspace in eastern Europe and also collaborate on future endeavors. “
During his visit, Ralph was given the opportunity to fly in an Su-27 and Lt. Gen. Onyschenko, the Commander of the Ukrainian Air Force, was granted the opportunity to fly in an F-16D. These rides demonstrated that the bonds created are not just formed at the junior officer level, but that senior commanders are also sharing experiences and bonding over the common language of air defense.
SAFE SKIES 2011 is a 14-day multinational aerial event including fighter aircraft from Ukraine, Poland and the United States. This event is the first of its kind in this region as well as the first time Air National Guard fighters have flown out of Ukraine. The event also provides the joint-nation team the opportunity to conduct air sovereignty operations training in preparation for major sporting events in Europe.
With more than 50 scheduled air intercepts to occur throughout Ukrainian and Polish airspace, SAFE SKIES will close at the end of the month. These events have already provided a tremendous opportunity for learning and collaboration, and have proven to be a great success.