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Air University recognizes Romanian Air Force leader’s academic, career achievements

  • Published
  • By Phil Berube
  • Air University Public Affairs

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala-- The leader of the Romanian Air Force returned to Maxwell after nearly 30 years to be formally recognized for an honor he received last year.

Lt. Gen. Viorel Pană, chief of the Romanian Air Force Staff, was presented a certificate on June 30, 2023, to commemorate his 2022 induction into the Chief of Staff and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force International Honor Roll. The general, who is the equivalent to the U.S. Air Force chief of staff, was unable to attend the April 2022 ceremony.

Induction into the IHR pays tribute to those AU officer and enlisted alumni who attain prominent positions in their respective country’s military or government.

Pană is a 1996 graduate of Squadron Officer School, and he was appointed to his leadership position in 2017. He started his career in 1989 as a fighter pilot in the MiG-21 aircraft, later piloting the Antonov An-24, C-130 Hercules and C-27J Spartan.

The general said it is good to be back in Alabama and on Maxwell after more than two decades.

“This was a very worthwhile personal experience for me to take this visit,” he said of both his visit to Air University and Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, site of NATO pilot training. “In coming to Maxwell to attend school, it’s not necessarily what you learn here, but what you leave here with.”

Pană is one of 82 Romanian military members who have graduated from Air University officer and enlisted professional military education programs since 1994. He is the second officer from his country to have attended an AU school. Two officers will be attending officer PME this academic year, one at Air Command and Staff College and the other at Air War College. Additionally, two Romanian senior noncommissioned officers are attending SNCO Academy.

Professional military education at any level, said the general, should be valued, adding that Air University’s brand of PME is different than most he’s taken over the course of his career.

“Air University has a unique educational framework,” said Pană. “It’s not just that each individual is challenged to perform in different ‘domains,’ based on a very well-balanced curriculum, it’s that AU puts them in different situations to solve problems while at the same time being a part of a team. I’ve said it to some commanders that it’s not the F-22 that is the Air Force’s most powerful weapon, it’s your people.”

The general added anecdotally that it’s easy to tell that a Romanian Air Force officer is a former AU student.

“You can tell within the first few minutes of being in a professional setting,” he said. “The way he expresses ideas and the way he looks for solutions to the problem. It’s not necessarily about what he knows, but the way he tackles problems.”

Joining NATO in 2004, Romania is Alabama’s partner state under the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program. The program, a key U.S. security cooperation tool, facilitates collaboration across all facets of international civil-military affairs and encourages close community ties at the state level.

Accordingly, during his time in Montgomery, the Romanian general met with military leaders at the Alabama National Guard’s 187th Fighter Wing at Dannelly Field and its Joint Forces Headquarters.

The 30-year partnership between the Romanian Air Force and Alabama National Guard has been very impactful, he said.

“It’s a very, very important strategic partnership,” said Pană. “A lot has been developed between us in those 30 years, such as the F-16 and C-130 programs, and now the F-35 program. What is good with the partnership with the Alabama National Guard, and the U.S. Air Force, is that they understood from the very beginning that the best way to do it is not necessarily to invest money, but to help us help ourselves.”

These strategic partnerships provide tangible, and intangible, advantages when it comes to security cooperation and interoperability between nations during challenging times.

“The Ukrainian crisis taught us a very important lesson,” he said. “NATO is strong enough, credible enough, and together enough to deter aggression. At the same time, it taught us that you have to be, at least for a while, strong enough in order to provide the clear capability to defend. The whole partnership cooperation with the U.S. Air Force is not necessarily that we fly together, but it’s about building trust between us.”

While at AU, Pană also received briefings on Air Force wargaming from the Curtis E. LeMay Center for Doctrine Development and Education and the educational and professional development of the Air Force’s enlisted corps from the Thomas N. Barnes Center for Enlisted Education.