Forward Operating Location Curacao teams with Dutch for "Navy Days"
By Capt. Nathan D. Broshear , 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) Public Affairs
/ Published June 20, 2008
Forward Operating Location Curacao, Netherlands Antilles (AFPN) -- The peaceful skies over the island of Curacao came alive as the F-16 Fighting Falcon Demo Team from Shaw AFB, South Carolina and Airmen from Air Forces Southern teamed with the Dutch military to showcase air and sea power this weekend during a series of thundering demonstrations.
The Viper East team kicked off "Dutch Navy Days" as the F-16 rocketed into the demonstration area over the USS Carr, a U.S. Navy Frigate from Norfolk Va., and Dutch, French, Colombian and British Navy ships parked alongside the island's signature bay of the Schottegat harbor. A crowd estimated at more than 50,000 people watched the headline event -- with many lining up for the team's practice and both demonstrations on Saturday and Sunday.
Lt. Col. Charles Olson, the 429th Expeditionary Operations Squadron commander hailed the cooperative effort aimed at tightening the bonds of friendship between the military and local populace.
"To make this event a success our Air Forces Southern team is working alongside the U.S. Navy, Colombian, French and Dutch Navy, Royal Air Force and Department of State personnel to make the weekend a memorable and positive experience for the people of Curacao," he said.
"Our goal is to ensure everyone in Curacao understand that we're committed to being good neighbors...Air Forces Southern is here to support them -- whether that's through our robust, joint counter-narcotics missions, volunteer efforts across the island, providing additional fire fighting capability at the airport or simply helping make this region safer -- the FOL is a friend of this community," added Colonel Olson.
Once every three years the Dutch military invites partner nation military members to join in Dutch Navy Days, a celebration of the island's naval heritage and years of partnership between the island and the people of the Netherlands. This year, the Viper East team represented the Air Force and Air Forces Southern Forward Operating Location located miles from the bay where festivities took place. Regardless, members of the Demo Team still performed their show as if they were being watched by a crowd of thousands.
"That's just how we do things," said Capt. George Clifford, the Viper East Demonstration Team pilot. "Everything we do is routine and rehearsed so even when we're performing the demo in a location away from the airfield we still practice and keep our tempo professional."
On Sunday, FOL Curacao and the Viper East team hosted approximately 75 people from the local community inside the hangar where the team's two F-16s were parked. Onlookers arrived just in time to watch the final post-flight routine and take exclusive pictures of the aircraft as it taxied. Later, aircrews and maintainers took photos with families and answered questions for guests and local media.
"It's a privilege to be able to meet with the people of Curacao and see them smile when we put on a great demonstration," said Senior Airman Anthony Modugno, an F-16 crew chief with the Viper East Demo Team.
After each of the F-16 demonstrations, a helicopter from the United Kingdom simulated a water rescue -- swooping in low over the crowd and surprising spectators as the chopper flew under a nearby bridge. Later, Dutch Special Forces personnel "re-took" a tugboat during a mock hostage situation, complete with law enforcement, hand-to-hand combat, suspect apprehension and Coast Guard support.
The day's activities embodied the international and interagency support provided to the region by the men and women of Air Forces Southern every day, explained Col. James Russell, the 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) director of operations and airshow director for US participation in Dutch Navy Days.
"Air Forces Southern is absolutely committed to this region," he said. "The capabilities the people of Curacao were able to see and tour during Dutch Navy days are the same capabilities our combined team uses to combat illegal drug trafficking, provide increased regional security, disaster response and emergency services throughout Latin America."
Throughout the event, Airmen handed out souvenirs and took photos with local citizens eager to hear about the FOL mission.
"Air Forces Southern Airmen, as always, acted as 'Ambassadors in Blue' to the people of Curacao," concluded Colonel Russell. "Each year, FOL Curacao operations contribute more than 17 million dollars into the local community, but more importantly, our team has developed enduring partnerships and friendships with the people of Curacao -- that's the true measure of our success."