The U.S. Air Force has released incredible footage showing aircraft and vehicles assigned to the 31st Fighter Wing line the runway during an elephant walk at Aviano Air Base, Italy.
Two dozen F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 510th and 555th Fighter Squadrons with two HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters of the 56th and 57th Rescue Squadrons took part in the first Elephant Walk in Aviano history, June 1, 2020 at Aviano Air Base, Italy.
The term Elephant Walk dates back to World War II when the Army Air Forces had a large number of bombers, which would regularly generate attacks in excess of 1,000 aircraft from its Numbered Air Forces. It was named Elephant Walk because the nose-to-tail, single-file taxi movements of bombers resembled the nose-to-tail trail of elephants on their way to the next watering hole.
Also, squadrons represented include the 606th Air Control Squadron and the 31st Security Forces Squadron.
The Elephant Walk demonstrated Aviano Air Base combat readiness through a show of force.
“It is a pretty impressive sight to see the [31st Fighter Wing] combat capable aircraft loaded and ready for takeoff flanked by two HH-60s, which were ready to rescue any downed Airmen with the support of PRIMO lining the runway all at the same time,” said U.S. Air Force Major Michael Watts, 510th Fighter Squadron assistant director of operations. “The 31st FW was able to demonstrate the readiness and ability to generate and mobilize its forces, which it would do in response to any major crisis.”
The Elephant Walk also intended a Slovenian show of gratitude to essential workers amidst the challenges of COVID-19.
“We were very fortunate to have the opportunity to work side-by-side with one of our great NATO allies here in the region,” said Watts. “Our partnership is easy to see with regards to training, but it was nice to also have the opportunity to show our support and gratitude for those front line workers who have sacrificed so much in this fight against COVID-19.”
The flight was led by three Slovenian Air Force PC-9s and six F-16’s from the 31st Fighter Wing, said Watts, and also included visits to regional Italian cities affected by the virus.
The Elephant Walk required the support of Airmen across the 31st Fighter Wing, including the 31st Maintenance Group.
“The Elephant walk would never happen if it weren’t for the hard work and dedication of our maintenance Airmen,” said Watts. “To perform an event like this we had to use almost all of the available aircraft that we have here at Aviano, which means maintenance had to generate them to be able to fly…None of this would have happened without the [31st Maintenance Group’s] dedication and skills.”