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French air force visit strengthens partnership

Air Force Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson (center), the Air Force Global Strike Command commander, explains the wing’s mission to Lt. Gen. Philippe Steininger, the commander of the French air force’s Strategic Air Forces Command at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., May 26, 2015. Since its standup in 2009, AFGSC has worked to build and maintain a strong relationship with its allies in the French air forces. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alexandra M. Longfellow)

Air Force Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson (center), the Air Force Global Strike Command commander, explains the wing’s mission to Lt. Gen. Philippe Steininger, the commander of the French air force’s Strategic Air Forces Command at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., May 26, 2015. Since its standup in 2009, AFGSC has worked to build and maintain a strong relationship with its allies in the French air forces. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alexandra M. Longfellow)

A 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief marshals a B-2A Spirit bomber piloted by Lt. Gen. Philippe Steininger, the commander of the French air force’s Strategic Air Forces Command, during an orientation flight at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., May 27, 2015. This was Steininger’s first visit to an Air Force Global Strike Command base since assuming command. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alexandra M. Longfellow)

A 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief marshals a B-2A Spirit bomber piloted by Lt. Gen. Philippe Steininger, the commander of the French air force’s Strategic Air Forces Command, during an orientation flight at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., May 27, 2015. This was Steininger’s first visit to an Air Force Global Strike Command base since assuming command. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alexandra M. Longfellow)

Lt. Gen. Philippe Steininger (right), the commander of the French air force’s Strategic Air Forces Command, places his unit patch on Air Force Maj. Alexander Reich, a 394th Combat Training Squadron B-2 Spirit instructor pilot, at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., May 27, 2015. The U.S. and France have been longtime allies, joining forces in many conflicts throughout history. Steininger’s visit is part of a regular series of exchanges between the two nations’ strategic air forces. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alexandra M. Longfellow)

Lt. Gen. Philippe Steininger (right), the commander of the French air force’s Strategic Air Forces Command, places his unit patch on Air Force Maj. Alexander Reich, a 394th Combat Training Squadron B-2 Spirit instructor pilot, at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., May 27, 2015. The U.S. and France have been longtime allies, joining forces in many conflicts throughout history. Steininger’s visit is part of a regular series of exchanges between the two nations’ strategic air forces. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alexandra M. Longfellow)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. (AFNS) -- Since its standup in 2009, Air Force Global Strike Command has worked to build and maintain a strong relationship with its allies in the French air forces.

A regular series of exchange visits between leadership, participation in joint exercises, and attendance at major events, have served to develop mutual understanding and partnering opportunities between the two nations' strategic air forces.

In continuing that partnership, Lt. Gen. Philippe Steininger, the commander of the French air force's Strategic Air Forces Command, along with a contingent of French air force members, visited Whiteman Air Force Base May 26-27, where they got an up-close look at B-2 Spirit mission and met with Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson, the AFGSC commander.

This was Steininger's first visit to an AFGSC base since assuming command. He was given the chance to fly in a B-2, an opportunity only approximately 600 people have had.

"First of all, being authorized to fly in the B-2 is quite unusual, so I very much appreciate this honor," Steininger said. "The people here at Whiteman have written a part of modern military history. The B-2 brought spirit to many operations in the past few years ... over the Balkans, over the Middle East, over Afghanistan, also over North Africa. The longest bombing mission ever has been flown here out of Whiteman. As a pilot, I'm very happy to have this tremendous experience on a very impressive jet, and as an officer, I'm also very proud to have met the people of Whiteman Air Force Base."

While visiting, Steininger and Wilson had an opportunity to discuss some of the differences and similarities in their operating procedures.

"Our weapons are different, our systems are different, our format obviously is different, but our challenges are exactly the same," Steininger said. "After all, our business is to be ready any time, be highly professional, be absolutely safe, and that's very true for Air Force Global Strike Command. That's also very true for my command, so we have a lot to learn from each other."

The U.S. and France are longtime allies, having joined forces on many occasions throughout history. With exchange visits between both countries, there are ample opportunities to continue strengthening those valuable connections.

"We want to continue to build upon an already great relationship and that's why these exchanges are really important," Wilson said. "We have a lot to learn from each other and I hope to continue to build and grow the relationship between us and the French strategic forces.”