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U.S. Air Force Pilot Partners With Italians to Fight ISIS

By Air Force Staff Sgt. R. Alex Durbin U.S. Air Forces Central Command

SOUTHWEST ASIA, Feb. 16, 2017 — In the air war to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, a coalition of 20 nations works together to equip, inform and deploy air forces across the Middle East in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.

To ensure the interconnected multinational force works cohesively, service members and leaders from each nation must learn to communicate and understand the perspectives of their international partners.

One U.S. airman is using these skills to fight ISIS while deployed with the Italian air force to an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia.

Air Force Lt. Col. Joe “Slap” Goldsworthy has served with the Italian air force for nearly three years as a member of the Military Personnel Exchange Program.

Promoting Partnership

The initiative gives the U.S. military the opportunity to swap service members with an allied nation military with the aim to promote partnership and develop interoperability between forces around the globe, including allies from Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

“While I’m an American officer, my job is to fully integrate into the Italian air force and learn from them,” Goldsworthy said. “The exchange program provides a unique opportunity for the U.S. and our allies to strengthen our ties and learn how the other works. It’s important we’re able to operate well together. Lives depend on it. It’s important and efforts like this exchange program are important.”

Goldsworthy began his time with the Italian air force in September 2014, when he was assigned to the 132nd Groupo stationed at Istrana Air Base in Treviso, Italy, as an AMX A-11 Ghibli pilot.

For Goldsworthy, an A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot with more than 2,700 flight hours of experience, the A-11 Ghibli brought new challenges and mission sets not typically executed in the familiar A-10.

Goldsworthy said successfully conducting these previously unfamiliar contingency missions are a culmination of his training and cooperation with his Italian wingmen.

Flying Italian Jets

“It was really humbling having to learn a new jet. I was like I a brand-new student after more than 10 years of flight experience. At the start, I made all of the typical student errors and was learning new mission sets I had never done,” he said. “It was challenging and still is at times, but the guys I work with helped me every step of the way.”

For “Gain”, Goldworthy’s Italian air force task group commander, this challenge reinforces what the exchange program can offer service members from both militaries.

“The exchange program is important because it represents a mutual opportunity to increase each other’s professionalism using [tactics, techniques and procedures] in a different aircraft. It also provides a different perspective on how to plan, execute and evaluate at the squadron level, during peacetime training and on overseas operations,” Gain said. “It offers an insight about different cultures to better understand the reason why things are done, sometimes differently from what we are used to in our native country.”

Now deployed, the 132nd Groupo provides “tac recce” support by using Rafael Reccelite tactical reconnaissance pods to provide precise, high-definition imagery to coalition leaders. This imagery provides coalition forces a full picture when planning and executing missions and launching strikes in the Middle East.

According to Goldsworthy, the time spent deployed has shown him the extent of the relationships between nations.

‘It’s a Great Perspective’

“It’s a great perspective to see the whole coalition picture. Before my experiences here, my wingmen and I always knew there were coalition partners out there doing stuff, but we never understood the true intricacies involved,” he said. “Every nation has important capabilities they bring to the fight and capabilities I would have never known existed three years ago. It’s rewarding to come back after a flight and know that what we just did is going places to help the coalition and even the American pilots across the street do their job better.”

Goldsworthy said the program will continue offering far-reaching effects beyond today’s fight.

“As allies it is imperative that we can successfully work together. Lives depend on it in critical situations,” he said. “By strengthening our ties with each other, we not only can ensure we are ready to fight if needed, but more importantly, deter the aggression and prevent a fight before it happens.”

Goldsworthy’s time in the exchange program concludes in September when he will return to an U.S. Air Force assignment.

“It’s going to be bitter-sweet. I love the U.S. Air Force and it’s going to feel like coming home, but it’s going to be tough leaving my friends and great memories behind,” he said. “While it will be hard, after three years spent with the Italian air force, I can come away with a completely different perspective. I’m going to be able to go back to the U.S. and share what I’ve learned and broaden the horizons of those around me and make sure we can keep bringing the fight to the enemy with the Italians as close friends and partners.”

Distribution channels: Military