Holloman Air Force Base, N.M. --
As a German air force Tornado and U.S. F-16 Fighting Falcon taxi down Holloman’s runway for takeoff Aug. 17, 2017, it is the beginning of the end – a conclusion of more than two decades of training and friendship.
This flight is the last time both German and U.S. Air Force pilots – the senior leaders – at Holloman Air Force Base will fly together.
“To interact with a different culture on a daily basis, not just during leisure times, but at the duty station creates mutual respect and the basis for friendships and comradery that lasts a lifetime,” said Col. Stephan Breidenbach, German air force Flying Training Center commander. “After more than 20 years of joint operations with the U.S. Air Force we are all feeling sad about leaving Holloman AFB and the Southwest.”
The German air force began training with U.S. aircrews in 1958. Although training has moved to several different locations, the German air force has called Holloman AFB, “zuhause,” or home, since 1992.
Over the last 25 years, the German air force Flying Training Center has trained hundreds of pilots, flown thousands of missions, and captured a million memories through one unique partnership.
The primary mission of the GAF at Holloman is to train Tornado aircrews through a basic weapons system course, instructor course and fighter weapons instructor course. The GAF also teaches advanced tactical training for Tornado fighter bomber units.
This provides the Luftwaffe, or German air force, with the expert skills they need to fly missions around the world in support of Germany and its joint partners like the United States. Germany is a partner with the U.S. in operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and contributes to the anti-ISIS coalition.
Additionally, two of the Air Force’s regional commands, United States European Command and United States Africa Command, are stationed outside the continental United States -- both in Germany. Also, the largest military hospital outside the U.S. is in Landstuhl, Germany. All of these operations have added to the heritage of friendship between Germany and the U.S.
With the slogan of, “Combat Airpower Starts Here,” the primary mission at Holloman is also training, except here, Air Force Airmen are shaping premiere remotely piloted aircraft pilots, sensor operators and maintainers along with the 54th Fighter Group’s world-class F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter pilots and maintainers.
Holloman’s RPA and F-16 warriors are critical assets around the world to U.S. military forces as well as joint and coalition partners.
“While our missions may be different, as warfighters, we are focused on the same goals,” said Col. James Keen, 54th Fighter Group commander. “We are focused on taking care of our people, taking pride in our service and performing as the professionals we are.”
Over the past 25 years, the GAF has interacted daily with Holloman Airmen.
This unique joint environment allows both forces to learn from each other, which goes beyond daily military operations. They each have shared their war stories, family photos and even battled in a friendly soccer match each year. They also shared their unique cultural celebrations such as 4th of July and Oktoberfest.
While German flying operations are winding down at Holloman AFB, their departure is not yet finished. The GAF has entered its final stage of departure, however they will not complete their departure from Holloman until mid 2019. And with that, each passing day and every flight becomes more and more significant to each partner at Holloman.
After the Tornado and F-16 taxi to their final positions on Holloman’s flightline, the pilots emerge weary, but proud with the aerial mission deemed a success. They have flow together -- one last time – before they have to say goodbye.
Despite the departure of the GAF’s training mission at Holloman, the friendships that were built in the high desert of Southern New Mexico will live on in the proud heritages of the Luftwaffe and United States Air Force.
"This final mission has forever forged our bonds as Airmen," said Col. Houston Cantwell, 49th Wing commander. "This mission is now part of both our histories and our heritage as Airmen. This unique and valuable partnership has served both countries, and your positive impact on the Alamogordo community will not soon be forgotten. To our German allies, we can only now say 'Auf Wiedersehen' and wish you well until we meet again."