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High Kudos: Activation of the NATO-led C-17 strategic airlift capability program last month with the completion of the 12-nation memorandum of understanding was “a great achievement” for the Air Force and “a true example” of building partner capacity, says Bruce Lemkin, USAF’s deputy under secretary for International Affairs. In a release issued Oct. 7, Lemkin, whose office was the lead agent for coordinating SAC activities, said the service “overcame huge obstacles in taking a vague notion for an airlift consortium and turning it into a viable multinational program in less than two years.” Indeed, he said, “the SAC team overcame many legal, financial, and policy challenges as well as competing national interests.” The experience of this precedent-setting program, he continued, “will pay dividends in establishing future cooperative efforts to build partnerships and promote burden sharing.” In the near future, Lemkin said US European Command/US Air Forces in Europe will assume lead responsibility for the SAC program’s execution phase. The SAC agreement came into effect on Sept. 23, thereby initiating the multinational process of acquiring the consortium’s three C-17s and standing up a heavy airlift wing at Papa AB, Hungary. Arrival of the first C-17 at Papa is anticipated next spring, with initial operations of the wing expected next summer. Participating are NATO members Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, and the United States as well as NATO partnership for peace nations Finland and Sweden. While Denmark, Slovakia, and Latvia withdrew from the SAC program, the Czech Republic and Italy are still considered “prospective participants" that have until Dec. 23 to formally join the consortium under the existing MOU terms, Air Force spokesman Maj Chris Hemrick tells the Daily Report.