On 16 and 17 June, the gates of the airbase were opened to the public to mark this special occasion. It was a unique opportunity for the public to have an idea of what goes on behind the gates of the air base and provided some insight into the Component’s history, aircraft and daily operations.
The AWACS aircraft were of course in the spotlight during the celebrations, but each NATO nation represented at Geilenkirchen also brought in a special aircraft from their country to create an extensive and unique display for the visitors. Guests also enjoyed a varied entertainment programme.
But behind the celebrations lies a very serious purpose. Since its arrival on 28 February 1982 the E-3A AWACS with their distinctive “radar dish” have conducted countless missions including air policing, counter-terrorism, crisis response and demonstrative force operations. As well as providing air support to meetings of Alliance heads of state, governmental and non-governmental meetings, and NATO summits, the AWACS have also played a crucial role in NATO operations, such as Unified Protector in 2011. The fleet is currently carrying out air surveillance above Poland in support of the Euro 2012 Football Championships which run until 1 July.
Reflecting on the past three decades, Major General Stephen D. Schmidt, Force Commander said, “Over the last 30 years, the men and workmen of the E-3A Component have earned an outstanding reputation for professionalism, dedication and complete success at every endeavour.”