MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, SC -- A British Royal Air Force air defense and airborne early warning squadron recently conducted a two-week training exercise aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.
The Red Eagles of No. 23 Squadron - one of two AWACS sqaudrons in the RAF - flew back to the United Kingdom Monday after completing joint training aimed at enhancing the interoperability between British and U.S. forces.
“The purpose of this training is to help us have more of an understanding on how the United Kingdom and the United States work together,” said Royal Air Force Squadron Leader Lynn Johnson.
In January, the squadron trained with joint forces at the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center. Colonel Harmon Stockwell, the Air Station commanding officer, requested that they train aboard Fightertown, during their recent training evolution.
“I have the mindset that (the squadron) needs to come here and train,” Stockwell said.
“This allows us to have a military and cultural exchange, so that we are familiar. We can practice this now, so that we can be ready when we have to work together.”
An AWACS squadron is an airborne coordinator for aircraft and ground units. It serves as a link between commanders, and is responsible for the execution of air battle, according to Johnson.
“We are airborne command control and coordination,” Johnson said. “To do this we must have an understanding of aircraft and the people. We get that understating from the training.”
The Red Eagles are part of the RAF, but regularly carry out mission for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The squadron is no stranger to working with the United States.
“We have worked extensively with the United States since 9/11,” said RAF Flight Lieutenant Dave Sciones, a pilot with the squadron. “We have served with them in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
Normally when the squadron is training with the U.S. it is part of a specific exercise involving several foreign countries, according to Johnson.
Although the squadron has worked with U.S. forces before, the training conducted in Beaufort was unique, according to Johnson.
“This is a new type of training for us,” Johnson said.
“We usually have an exercise where we train with a lot of different people. Here we are training more at a local level. We get more integrated with the squadrons and get a better understanding.”
The Air Station is centrally located between many bases, which provides for a lot more training, according to Stockwell. Having the squadron aboard the Air Station also allows joint forces in the area a chance to train with an AWACS squadron.
“This is a great opportunity to work together,” Stockwell said. “Having them here gives us a chance to train with an E-3 AWACS.”
The importance and value of training with the British squadron goes beyond building technical expertise, it also allows both sides a chance to learn about each other culturally, according to Stockwell.
“Although people think that there is not a big cultural difference between us, there are some,” Stockwell said. “This allows everyone a chance to explore and understand our cultural differences.”
Future Air Station personnel will have a chance to meet and learn about the British squadron, because the Red Eagles plan to conduct their training in the area biannually, according to Johnson. The squadron will visit the Combat Readiness Center and the Air Station each once a year.
“Everyone seemed to be keen on working with us and the training went well,” Johnson said. “The hospitality from the base has made us feel exceptionally welcome.”