KINLOSS BARRACKS, Scotland — The smell of pine needles and the North Sea was heavy in the air. Sea birds swooped in circles above while the sun shined down on the grassy field. Metal shovels crunching through wet dirt and the hum of idled machinery echoed throughout the opening. Wiping sweaty brows and sighing with exhaustion, Wisconsin Air National Guard Airmen with the 128th Air Refueling Wing’s Civil Engineering Squadron carried on with their work — part of Exercise Flying Rose June 2015 at Kinloss Barracks in Morayshire, Scotland, United Kingdom.
Exercise Flying Rose is an exchange exercise between the U.S. Air National Guard and British Army, said Lt. Col. Heath Duncan, 128th Air Refueling Wing Civil Engineering Squadron commander for the exercise. During Exercise Flying Rose, forces deploy to one another's countries and work to complete construction-related jobs.
For the 2015 exercise, 128th Air Refueling Wing Civil Engineering Airmen deployed to Kinloss Barracks while British Army troops deployed to Savannah, Georgia.
The British Army Royal Engineers from the 60 Headquarters and Support Squadron at Kinloss Barracks hosted the Airmen for the two-week duration of the exercise. The Royal Engineers ensured that the Airmen had adequate accommodations, food, work supplies and other necessities.
While at Kinloss Barracks, the Airmen took on several construction initiatives. One task was to construct three concrete pads at the Kinloss Barracks Single Living Accommodation. The pads consisted of a concrete slab enclosed by a timber fence. The completed cement pads are now used as a containing area for the Kinloss Barracks Single Living Accommodation's waste receptacles.
Another Exercise Flying Rose task the Airmen completed was constructing two troop shelters. The shelters consisted of a gravel base, wood structure and a tin roof. The troop shelters are set to be used as a resting area for British troops during Kinloss Barracks' air support training.
The Airmen used British Army construction equipment for jobs such as moving dirt and mixing cement, said Senior Airman Connor Larkin, a 128th Air Refueling Wing Civil Engineering Squadron power production specialist. Prior to construction, the Airmen were trained by the Royal Engineers on operations and safety procedures to ensure a successful mission.
"We have learned how to work with the constraints of the foreign nationals' system and using different tools with different power and different materials,” Duncan said. “We've been able to overcome challenges with the help of our hosts.”
The Royal Engineers of Kinloss Barracks also benefited from the exercise.
"The Americans learned our way of getting the job done, and we are also taking away quite a bit of skills from them, too," said Sergeant James Higgins, a Royal Engineer at Kinloss Barracks.
Another aspect of Exercise Flying Rose is learning the culture of overseas allies. During their time at Kinloss Barracks, the Airmen learned about the history, heritage and customs of the British Military.
"We worked on construction skills, but we also got a broad range of cultural experiences," Larkin said.
While the Airmen were at Kinloss Barracks, the Royal Engineers hosted a formal dinner in honor of Exercise Flying Rose and its participants. The dinner displayed several ceremonies and customs, allowing the Airmen to witness the extensive heritage of the British Military.
"The military is based on tradition and seeing another country's military traditions is a very unique opportunity," Larkin said.
Because the Royal Engineers derive from many different countries within the United Kingdom, such as Northern Ireland, Scotland,
England and Wales, the Airmen were able to experience an array of cultures and people, Duncan explained.
The Airmen were also able to venture outside of Kinloss Barracks and dive deep into the history of Scotland and the United Kingdom through cultural visits to nearby destinations.
"Seeing the history of this country really has helped me understand the British more and really appreciate their culture," Larkin said.
Along with building structures, the Airmen and Royal Engineers also built up camaraderie between the forces.
"We got to personally interact with the Royal Engineers — not only on a work level, but also a social level,” Duncan said. “That's a tremendous experience that is hard to replicate.”
The camaraderie will especially be put to good use when working together overseas, Larkin said. Because the Airmen are now familiar with the British military way of life, there will be a smooth transition when working together in a deployed environment due to the bonds and understanding built during Exercise Flying Rose.
"It's been a privilege working with the Americans and I hope to work with them again soon," Higgins said.