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IAF in Greece: Personal Column Release date 29.04.2019
My name is Orel Elmakaies, and I serve as an SRE (Safety & Rescue Equipment) supervisor. Last month, I participated in an IAF delegation to Greece as part of the "Iniochos" aerial exercise. During both routine and emergency – both in Israel and overseas – I am responsible for the aircrews' flight equipment. These are my experiences from the deployment
Sgt. Orel Elmakaies, Greece | Assisted by: Carmel Stern

My name is Orel Elmakaies. I serve as an SRE (Safety & Rescue Equipment) supervisor in the IAF – this means that I am responsible for the aircrew members' flight equipment. Several weeks ago, I participated in an IAF deployment in Greece, held as part of the "Iniochos" aerial exercise. Participating in the exercise were the 117th ("First Jet") and 109th ("The Valley") Squadrons, both operating "Barak" (F-16C/D) fighter jets from Ramat David AFB. It was the first time I joined a military deployment and my first time overseas.

Sgt. Elmakaies | Photography: Noam Nachum

When I learned that we were due to participate in the exercise six months ago, I became very excited. We began preparing two and a half months before the deployment itself. My crew commander flew alongside me, and we worked as a team throughout the entire stay in Greece, making sure that the aircrew members board their aircraft with all the equipment they need.

Every IAF squadron has SRE supervisors responsible for examining the aircrew members' flight equipment - including pressure suits, helmets and parachutes – before flight. I expected that our work during the exercise to be simple, but it ended up being especially challenging. Deploying abroad is harder than routine operations in the squadron, and this is true for all participants. The hours are long, we have a lot of work, and the number of sorties, aircraft and aircrews is great.

Photography: Noam Nachum

And yet, our schedules were considerably similar to our daily routine back in Israel. Each morning, we would arrive at the SRE Room and perform our daily procedure. The maintenance squadron personnel also worked until the small hours of the night in order to make sure that the aircraft were prepared for the next day's flights. Both squadron's technical departments worked hard in order to help the aircraft take off properly, and it was fun seeing how the two squadrons worked as one.

At one time, an aircrew member from the Hellenic Air Force entered the SRE Room and told me: 'good job, you're doing some great work' – that's something I won't forget. I learned about a new kind of culture, and even got to talk to several aircrews from the Hellenic Air Force and learned that there are many things in their day-to-day operation similar to ours. They are very nice and interesting people, and I learned quite a lot from them.

Technicians scanning the runway | Photography: Noam Nachum

I believe that the deployment and training alongside the Hellenic Air Force strengthens our relationship and leads to a better cooperation. Whenever I talk to our aircrews, I further understand the importance of each and every SRE supervisor in the force.