HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --
Brig. Gen. Eric Sanchez, the Commanding General at White Sands Missile Range, visited Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, to attend an airspace and mission brief, and to take a familiarization flight in an F-16 Fighting Falcon, Jan. 9, 2017.
The airspace and mission brief included information about F-16 airspace requirements and operations between Holloman and WSMR, for both present and future missions.
The success of Holloman’s F-16 training unit is reliant upon its partnership with WSMR. WSMR grants Holloman AFB use of its airspace. This airspace, which spans an area of over 300 square miles, provides Holloman’s pilots with necessary training and flight opportunities, which better enable them to become world-class fighter pilots.
“The relationship between Holloman and WSMR has been fantastic over the years, and is only getting better,” said Col. James Keen, the 54th Fighter Group commander. “We borrow their airspace, and we forecast out, sometimes a month in advance, in terms of what we need. Then, we find a middle ground to determine what we can do to help each other work on a daily basis. We have folks here at Holloman that drive to WSMR daily and spend an entire 12 hour day working real-time airspace concerns, so that we can accomplish our mission.”
The 54th Fighter Group is set to become the Air Force’s largest F-16 Formal Training Unit, with an intent to produce 80 percent of the Air Force’s F-16 pilots, and 50 percent of all fighter pilots, by Sept. of 2018. WSMR’s continued support is crucial to the success of this expansion.
“We understand the importance of this relationship, because of the airspace that we share and the missions that we have,” Sanchez said. “And with the new training squadrons that are coming in, it is going to be that much more important. The relationship that we have is vital to the success of Holloman AFB, and our ability to coordinate and cooperate is essential to the Department of Defense.”
However, Holloman AFB and WSMR’s partnership does not come without significant challenges.
“Due to the nature of our airspace requirements, sometimes our needs are in conflict with WSMR's," Keen said. "Our biggest challenge is working together to allocate a limited resource for maximum efficiency between two branches of the military. This challenge will increase when our mission grows in the future."
Significant challenges are often met with needs for improvement. As Holloman’s mission evolves, it is important that Holloman and WSMR work together to tackle challenges more efficiently.
“It is going to be open communication, being very flexible in how we approach our problems, and coming up with solutions versus just highlighting problems, from the lowest to the very highest level of the command structure,” Keen said. “From this point forward, it is not just about our needs or their needs, it is about us working together as a team: we are an enterprise. If we work as an enterprise versus an institution, we are going to be more effective in the end and we are going to get our missions accomplished.”