23rd OSS takes a trip to Finland

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Rachel Coates
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs

Pilots landing an aircraft on a runway is a common occurrence that happens over 100,000 times a day across the U.S., yet most uncommon is pilots landing aircraft on a make-shift runway, highway – or anywhere else for that matter.

The collaboration between the U.S. Air Force, Royal Air Force and Finnish Air Force provided that experience for the 23rd Operations Support Squadron. The connection grows evermore between the three air forces as the U.S. takes a look into the way their partners conduct such maneuvers.

This September, the squadron visited Finland to learn their tactics, techniques and procedures during Baana23 to strengthen the 23rd Wing’s Lead Wing efforts.

“The purpose of the trip was to [determine] what the landing zone safety operators need to be capable of when deployed as a [expeditionary air base,]” said Lt. Col. Sean Griffin, 23rd OSS commander. “When Col. Sheets is tasked, he’ll know he has the right team paired and tailored with the right equipment to execute this kind of operation.”

The three-day exercise, consisting of aircraft landing and taking off of a Finnish highway, gave the members of the 23rd OSS a look into how some NATO partners operate landing zones in austere locations, something the 23rd Wing is headed towards.

“A lot of my focus was on what equipment they were using,” said Tech. Sgt. Jordan Crocker, 23rd OSS Radar, Air Field and Weather Systems section chief. “We don’t have any unit type codes for deployable assets in my job area, so going and seeing what type of equipment they used was really helpful in understanding what kind of packages we should be creating when it comes to airfield equipment needed in the future.”

Both Griffin and Crocker explained that their career field isn’t one that usually operates in contingency locations like the agile combat employment initiative shows – the initiative is so new that learning from an air force that has practiced ACE time and time again, proves paramount in gaining the knowledge needed for our new theater.

“Their military is smaller, so they’re able to accept risks at lower levels,” Crocker said. “Because of that, they’re able to train in the environments that we’re just now getting into. It was important to be there to see how we should be practicing.”

The tactics that the Finish team implement can serve as an inspiration to U.S. Airmen and give the U.S. Air Force a roadmap for future goals.

“They’re doing something that we’re dreaming about doing in our Air Force,” Griffin said. “We watched them conduct a highway landing with fifth generation fighters and conduct hot pit refueling. They absolutely crushed it – they did a fantastic job.”

This opportunity helped to strengthen the relationships needed for solidified defense in any potential future conflicts, Griffin explained.

“I don’t think anyone thinks that we’re going to go to war with only America’s superpower anymore. We’re going to go, but we’re going to go with our partners – bringing in diversity and different capabilities.”