Airmen build partnerships beyond flightline

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Damon Kasberg
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
For the past three weeks, Airmen and guardsmen have worked together to complete training requirements and build interoperability with the Polish air force during Aviation Detachment 16-1. With less than a week remaining of the flying training deployment, U.S. Airmen made time to reach out to the local community Oct. 30.

Members of the 86th Airlift Wing visited the a Polish special needs school at Września, where they received a warm welcome from the students.

"I was really excited to see the kids and their reactions," said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Chasady Harris, 86th Operation Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment apprentice. "Before we even walked into the school, I could see them staring out the windows. Children are our future and having these positive interactions with them helps set the tone for building these strong relationships.

"Being something that makes them happy, even just for that day, was the coolest part. It's something I'll never forget." she added.

With smiles on their faces, the students taught the Airmen sign language and Polish words, performed to 'Singin' in the Rain' and read a Polish poem together.

"The kids were very happy to interact with foreigners," said Agnieszka Mastowska, Special Needs School English teacher. "For our children and teachers, it's a great opportunity to expand our knowledge to speak English and meet nice people. We would love to continue this cooperation."

The children agreed.

"We're happy Americans visited us," said Maria Nowak, Special Needs School student. "We like learning English."

An hour away in the city of Kleczew another group of Airmen visited a military school. They had the opportunity to talk to students and enjoy a friendly game of volleyball against the school team.

"We got our butts kicked, but it was fun," said U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Jason Sikorski, 264th Combat Communications Squadron flight commander. "The students were engaged and excited to have us there to learn more about our military, American history and our school system. It was a good experience."

The events were coordinated by the 52nd Operations Group Detachment 1, a U.S. Air Force unit that not only works with the Polish air force to foster defense ties but also understands the importance of fostering relationships outside the military.

"Although our mission here is to train with the Polish air force, it is also important to reach out to the people in and around the installations," said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Toni M. Ehart, 52nd OG Detachment 1 NCO in charge of material management and security manager. "It enhances our partnership and reflects a positive image not only on the Air Force but also for the U.S. in general. For some, this could be their first encounter with Americans. The feedback thus far has been very positive, and there are continued requests for visits such as these."

As the visits came to an end, Airmen and students said their farewells, but as the Air Force continues to work closely with their Polish allies, it wasn't truly goodbye.