RAF MILDENHALL, England - -- The 100th Air Refueling Wing hosted 15 French air force personnel from Base Aérienne 125, Istres, France, here Jan. 4 and 5, to build and strengthen partnerships created during Operation Unified Protector.
During OUP, BA 125 was home to the 351st Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron, comprised of 100th ARW Airmen, KC-135 Stratotankers and other Air Mobility Command assets.
Lt. Col. Robert Ricks, former 351st EARS commander and current 100th ARW director of staff, said that one of the most important lessons the 351st EARS learned was the value of trust.
Ricks said relationships improved vastly while the unit was deployed to Istres.
"As we got to know each other a little better, we came to amicable solutions because we trusted each other," said Ricks. "The French partners knew that when we were asking for something, it was something that we really needed and couldn't get ourselves. They were very helpful and responsive."
At BA 125, the French air force flies the KC-135 and C-135FR Stratotanker, which is are same airframes as the 100th ARW flies, but with a different avionics suite, explained Ricks.
"One day there was a knock at my door, and it was some French pilots that I've never seen before and they asked to see our tanker," said Ricks. "Once I got everything coordinated, we brought over their air refueling squadron to see a static display of our aircraft."
Ricks said that in addition to the air refueling squadron, the 351st EARS also arranged several static displays for the French air force academy and delegates from the French air staff.
During the visit here, the French personnel received a tour of the 351st Air Refueling Squadron, a mission brief and an opportunity to fly in the KC-135 flight simulator with the newer Block 40 cockpit.
"It was a pleasure to work with the French air force," said Maj. David Brown, 100th ARW plans and programs. "I think this tour built on an already strong relationship."
In the near future, Ricks and Brown hopes that the relationship will continue to grow when the French are invited back to RAF Mildenhall for the Air Refueling Symposium in May.
"In the long term, the goal is for us to be ready for any future conflicts and for us to operate together even more seamlessly than we have in the past," said Ricks. "Hopefully we can keep this relationship going so when we work together, we can make both nations stronger in the way we do air refueling."