May 14, 2021 (by 1st Lt. Alan Abernethy) - Maintaining robust working relationships with our U.S. network of allies and partners is a key asset for the U.S. Air Force. The international Military Personnel Exchange Program (MPEP) offers one avenue to enduring ties with our global mission partners.
Lieutenant Colonel Saksorn Fhaikhao, RTAF C-130 instructor pilot, stands in front of a C-130H3 #93-1036 at Dobbins ARB, while serving with the 94th AW as part of the international Military Personnel Exchange Program ON February 2021. [usaf photo by MSgt. Michael McGhee]
Lieutenant Colonel Saksorn Fhaikhao, Royal Thai Air Force C-130 instructor pilot, spent nearly three years at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Georgia, as part of the program and departed recently to return to his home unit.
"I like to challenge myself, so to come here and train with the greatest Air Force – I knew it wasn't going to be easy," said Fhaikhao, who is known to Dobbins Airmen as "Uno," his American call sign.
Uno joined the Thai Air Force in 1999 and is part of the 601st Squadron, Wing 6, Royal Thai Air Force, in Bangkok.
When he learned about the MPEP, he made it a goal to be a part of it, he said.
"I wanted to come here and learn and bring it back with me to the unit in Thailand," said Uno.
In his time here, he's learned a great deal about low-level tactical flying, as well as C-130 formation flying, which isn't as common for the Royal Thai Air Force, he said. He flew local training missions, provided current operations planning and flew in exercises across the U.S., such as Red Flag Alaska in 2019.
"He's very fluent in English," said Captain Bryan Reed, 700th Operations Support Squadron. "It's got to be extremely challenging to fly a plane using a foreign language, but he does it pretty flawlessly."
He also got a chance to work with other mission partners at Red Flag, including Airmen from Japan, South Korea and members of his home unit in Thailand.
Although official Air Force business allowed for some interesting travel, Uno said he was proactive in seeing the country on his own, having travelled to "40-something states" in the last few years.
"I love travel, so I did a road trip. It was so much fun to see the country," said Uno. "I love the Grand Canyon, and Niagara Falls is pretty amazing."
After nearly three years of learning about U.S. Air Force operations and American culture, Uno says he's poised to return to his former unit and share what he's learned.
"I have knowledge and experience from here, so when I go back home I can say, ‘try this, do this,'" said Uno. "When I go back, my goal is to be a squadron commander. I want to bring the training back home and make sure we use the same standard."
Uno emphasized the importance of the MPEP, explaining that the most valuable aspect of the experience is the relationship building, which can enable stronger future partnerships.
"I want to thank everyone here for having me for almost three years," said Uno. "I'll never forget this – it's been amazing."