MOUNTAIN HOME - Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) pilots, weapon systems officers and engineers have been doing advanced training on its latest F-15SG fighter jets for the past 10 years in the United States, more than eight thousand miles away from home.
At the same time, the around 375 airmen of the Peace Carvin V (PC V) detachment and their families have made the city of Mountain Home in the American state of Idaho a second home, participating in events such as the annual air force appreciation day parade and charity projects.
Lieutenant-Colonel Oon Kok Choon, who is commander of the permanent training detachment, said: "Integration into this Buccaneers family, and more importantly, into this whole community, in my opinion, is seamless."
"What we do is that even before any family comes to the US, our officers already reach out to them back in Singapore, to find out how many are coming, how many children and their ages - to help with their school arrangements," he told reporters ahead of PC V's 10th anniversary celebrations on Thursday (Oct 10).
The Buccaneers refer to the US Air Force's 428th Fighter Squadron - the assigned squadron for PC V at Mountain Home Air Force Base.
The detachment celebrated its 10th anniversary with a parade at the air force base. Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How, who officiated the event, unveiled an F-15SG commemorative tail flash to mark the occasion.
The event was hosted by commander of the RSAF Air Combat Command, Brigadier-General Ho Kum Luen, and attended by about 450 people, including Chief of Air Force, Major-General Kelvin Khong, Singapore Ambassador to the US Ashok Kumar Mirpuri, Mountain Home mayor Rich Sykes and families of PC V personnel.
Mr Heng told the event that PC V, inaugurated by then Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean in November 2009, was set up to rapidly operationalise the F-15SG fighter fleet.
He said: "It has been the anchor of the RSAF's F-15SG programme, where we validate our war fighting doctrines, and qualify a steady flow of F-15SG pilots, weapon systems officers, and instructors."
The F-15SG were first delivered in May 2009 and declared fully operational in September 2013.
He added that the expansive airspace and numerous air-to-ground targets at the Mountain Home Range Complex provide the ideal tactical environment for RSAF airmen to employ a wide range of munitions and train realistically.
Mr Heng hailed the detachment as an exemplar of the strong and excellent relationship between the Singapore and the US.
"The confluence of our countries' strategic interests and the mutual commitment to military-to-military interactions has enabled us to develop our defence ties to be strong and excellent," he added.
Other than PC V, the RSAF also conducts training in Arizona at the PC II detachment with the F-16C/D fighter aircraft in Luke Air Force Base, and the Peace Vanguard detachment with the AH-64D Apache helicopter in Marana.
LTC Oon, 41, who is trained as an F-15SG pilot, said training with the more experienced United States Air Force, in an airspace more than 20 times the size of Singapore's, has accelerated the professional development of RSAF airmen.
"We have high-end training so as to sharpen our edge of all the men and women that I have here. We are also here to push our operational boundaries," he said, citing how new tactics and weapons systems have been developed and validated here.
As part of the support given to the family of servicemen, the detachment helps them get driving licences and accommodation. They also conduct briefings to ensure they drive safe in winter.
The families live either within Mountain Home Air Force Base or in the city of Mountain Home about a 30-minute drive away.
Among the community events the detachment participates in is the annual Air Force Appreciation Day in September, which includes a parade similar to Singapore's Chingay event in Mountain Home, said LTC Oon, who has been deployed in the US for almost three years.
They also invite the community to celebrate special occasions, such as National Day, Chinese New Year and Deepavali at the air force base.
The detachment has also raised funds to provide three local schools with supplies. "This is just part of giving back to the community that has welcomed us with open arms for the past 10 years," said LTC Oon.
Colonel Richard A. Goodman, 366th Fighter Wing Commander at Mountain Home Air Force Base, told reporters that Singapore and the US forces shared a great partnership.
"We exercise together, we fly together, we work on inter-operability of our forces, and we learn from each other. Whether it's on the ground or in the air, we're better because of it," he said.
Earlier on Thursday, Mr Heng thanked Idaho Senator James Risch for the US's strong support for the Singapore Armed Forces' training in Idaho.
Both sides also reaffirmed the excellent bilateral defence relationship, and welcomed the recent renewal of the 1990 Memorandum of Understanding Regarding the US's Use of Facilities in Singapore by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and US President Donald Trump in New York last month.
Mr Heng and Mr Risch also discussed key bilateral defence initiatives such as Singapore's acquisition of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.