French pilots, families integrate into base, community

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Brigitte N. Brantley-Sisk
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs
Many people are familiar with high school and college foreign student exchange programs, but not as many are aware that a similar exchange happens with foreign military pilots.

Moody is currently hosting two French pilots who are integrated with a fighter and rescue squadron as they become proficient on their particular airframe.

"The units here and in France have similar missions, but we have different tactics and techniques," said Commandant (Maj.) Yann "Shrek" Malard, 75th Fighter Squadron A-10C Thunderbolt II pilot. "Serving with an American unit gives us the chance to see how they do things. My original aircraft, the Mirage2000D, is similar to the A-10, but I've learned many things that I'll be able to share when I return to France."

The other French pilot is also flying something similar to his original aircraft. Capitaine (Capt.) Sebastian Alvarez, 41st Rescue Squadron HH-60G Pave Hawk pilot, originally flew the SA 330 Puma.

"I only arrived at the squadron in February, so I'm still getting settled in," said Captain Alvarez. "We have guys who do a job similar to the pararescuemen here, so there are similarities between the jobs and the ground forces we work with."

While both the major and the captain have practiced interacting with ground forces through exercises, the major has gone beyond the simulation.

"My best memory from here is the six months I spent deployed to Afghanistan," said Major Malard, who arrived at Moody in late 2009. "We spent nearly 400 hours completing 90 combat missions. All the large-scale training I completed beforehand really helped me prepare."

Something else that is helping both the major and the captain doesn't relate directly to their job, but their home lives instead.

"My wife Lise and I are getting quite involved with meeting neighbors and seeing things in the local area," said Captain Alvarez. "I'm amazed at how quickly my daughter has picked up English- it's how she speaks to her dolls now."

The major has had a similar experience while getting accustomed to the Valdosta, Ga., style of life.

"My wife Isabelle went back to France for two of the months I was deployed, but she's been here the rest of the time," said Major Malard. "She feels good being here and has been very welcomed. She's gotten involved with a lot of the spouse's social events, which helped her get settled in here more quickly."

Both Major Malard and Captain Alvarez will have a chance to talk about their experiences here when members from the French attaché visit in early June.