POWIDZ AIR BASE, POLAND (AFNS) --
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel visited with U.S. and Polish airmen from the 52nd Operations Group Aviation Detachment here, Jan. 31.
Hagel traveled to Poland to discuss U.S. and Polish partnerships and defense alliances across a range of global security issues. He also thanked them for their support in Afghanistan and expressed the importance of U.S. support for Poland's defense modernization.
Hagel recognized the efforts of the U.S. and Polish service members working together in support of the Air Force Aviation Detachment.
"It's important that our two countries, working side by side in this effort, at this place, serve as an example," Hagel said. "It will continue being an expanding opportunity for more joint exercises and more opportunities to work together."
Hagel stressed the importance of cooperation between Poland and America.
"What you're doing here is important for our two countries; it's important for NATO, it's important for freedom, and it is a significant symbol around the world," Hagel said.
The Aviation Detachment's 10 Airmen shared their appreciation of Hagel's visit. The small team handles the full-spectrum detachment mission: to foster bilateral defense ties, enhance regional security and increase interoperability among NATO allies through combined training exercises with periodic rotational aircraft.
"It's an honor to have the Secretary of Defense visiting," said Maj. Matthew Spears, the commander of the U.S. Aviation Detachment. "It demonstrates the importance of our mission and the importance of our partnerships here in Poland."
The detachment was activated in November 2012, and marked the first enduring presence of U.S. military members on Polish soil. The Aviation Detatchment's presence in Poland makes it possible to host multiple allied Air Force elements and serve as a regional hub for air training and multi-national exercises. They also facilitate and enable combined U.S. and Polish training and exercises to increase air support to NATO.