Courtesy of Staff Sergeant Jason Armstrong
Thursday, April 11, 2013 | 2 a.m.
Growing up in downtown Henderson, Airman 1st Class Daniel Walling never expected to leave the United States.
Yet, two years after enlisting in the Air Force, the Basic High School graduate has been stationed in Aviano, Italy, and recently was chosen to visit Morocco to train with the Moroccan air force. An F-16 tactical aircraft maintainer (a job similar to an auto mechanic overhauling cars), Walling was one of 150 U.S. airmen selected for Majestic Eagle 13, an air-to-air combat training simulation akin to Nellis Air Force Base’s Red Flag exercises.
For two weeks, Walling will work with Moroccan air force counterparts at Ben Guerir Air Base to establish a relationship and see how they operate. It’s a unique opportunity that took two years to plan and hasn’t been done in about 10 years, Staff Sgt. Jason Armstrong said.
On Thursday, Walling will travel to Morocco — a country he previously knew only in name — for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Here’s what he had to say about the opportunity:
What will you be doing in Morocco?
We’re going to be focusing on working side-by-side with Moroccan air force. It’s going to be quite different working with a different air force, but making sure that we can be ready for whatever comes our way, and to make sure they know we’re here for them and we know they’ll be there for us if we need them.
How important is this to your career?
Being able to show I can work with other countries and air forces, it will definitely look good on my part. But as far as the career field and my job, being able to work with the other air force will help us gain knowledge to what happens there so that next time we work with another country we haven’t dealt with before, we can take the things we’ve done and learned here and apply it there to better help those countries.
Growing up in Henderson, did you ever imagine you’d be traveling to a place like Morocco?
I didn’t ever really think until I actually enlisted that I’d get out of the United States. When I received my first assignment to Italy, I was just shocked that I’d have a chance to do that. Here I’m getting to travel to a different country in Morocco that I hear is beautiful. It’s such an amazing opportunity that I’m excited for.
What was the first thing you did when you learned you were going to Morocco?
Jump for joy. That’s when I immediately got on (a computer) to figure out where it was so I could understand where I was going, what I was doing. I just hopped right on the computer and Googled Morocco to see what I could see.
What are you most looking forward to about your trip to Morocco?
I’m definitely looking forward to seeing the area, see if there are any beautiful sites. Getting to work with another country’s air force is going to be pretty cool. I’ve never got to work with anybody besides ones in my shops. Getting to see that they do the same job I’m doing, hopefully I can pick up some tips from what they’re doing and hopefully I can share some knowledge I’ve learned the last few years.
Any food you hope to try?
I love food. I’m not too sure what their cuisine is, but I’m ready to try whatever they throw at me.
What have you taken from your experience living and traveling to other countries?
Well, the initial shock of living in Italy was quite devastating. Not knowing the language, not understanding the culture, it was hard to get used to. With time we got used to it, we learned the language and we’re able to associate with our neighbors quite well. I definitely realized I needed to read up on any other country I go to more and learn about them so I don’t have the initial shock. But I wouldn’t give it up. I love this place. It’s amazing out here.