HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – 1st Lt. Eric Fonnesbeck learned Romanian during a missionary trip for his church in 2010 and used that knowledge in 2018 to help the Romanian Air Force setup an airstrip for F-16s.
The trip to Romania was a departure from his day job as a data analytics program manager in the Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence and Networks Directorate overseeing the Cyber Operations-Based Rapid Analytics System. His two-week trip sent him near the Transylvania mountains, where he helped Romanian allies translate and interpret Air Force Instructions on flightline operations.
“The Romanians purchased F-16s from Portugal, and they’ve pretty much duplicated our flightline operations procedures, word for word,” said Fonnesbeck. “This is great because not only can we stand behind the procedures, knowing they work, but when we’re operating together, our Airmen and theirs can easily mesh and operate as one.”
The Romanian Air Force has both Soviet-era MiG-21s, dating from their time aligned with the Soviet Union, and F-16s purchased from Western allies in recent decades.
Fonnesbeck joined the Air Force after graduating from Brigham Young University in 2015. While in the reserve officers’ training corps, he registered his proficiency in Romanian with the Air Force and has taken a proficiency test every two years.
“We got Fonnesbeck about four months ago,” said his supervisor, Stephen Ober, who oversees cyber defense weapons systems in C3I&N. “He took over, and hasn’t missed a beat. Consider that the system he’s in charge of has a lot of senior attention. It’s a big project, and he’s leading it with a lot of dedication and making the right moves.”
After registering his language proficiency, Fonnesbeck joined the Language Enabled Airman Program. LEAP gives multilingual Airmen opportunities to travel or interact with allies, and serve as translators when needed.
“I like to call friends in Romania and talk every once in a while, definitely to stay in touch, but also because it’s just helpful with the language,” said Fonnesbeck. “These trips always teach you something, so I was really grateful for the opportunity to go back.”