Special feature on the American vice-commander inclined to call East Anglia home

COLONEL Jay Silveria defends the American way of life and proud to serve his country, but having lived in East Anglia for more time than anywhere else the vice commander of the 48th Fighter Wing, based at RAF Lakenheath, is inclined to see the area as his home.

COLONEL Jay Silveria is defending the American way of life and proud to serve his country, but having lived in East Anglia for more time than anywhere else the vice commander of the 48th Fighter Wing, based at RAF Lakenheath, is inclined to see the area as his home.

Archant reporter Dominic Chessum spoke to him.

WITH his father having served in the American air force before him and having served in it himself for more than 20 years, it is fair to say that Col Jay Silveria has been around the world a bit.

But taking his first command at the gigantic Lakenheath airbase, in Suffolk, in August last year was also like coming home for the airman.


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And with a fleet of F-15 Strike Eagles at his disposal, he says he's one of the luckiest guys alive.

The posting is Col Silveria's fourth tour of duty at the base - his fifth if his time spent at Lakenheath during his childhood is taken into account.

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In fact, Col Silveria graduated from RAF Lakenheath High School 28 years ago and he still has pictures of him walking the streets of nearby towns when the area looked very different from today.

He said: "I asked to come to Lakenheath the first time and was here in the mid 90s and 2001.

"At my rank they do not really ask you where you want to go but I just got lucky. I have lived here longer than I have lived in any other place in the world.

"I do not really have a place that I call home, but I am 46 and I have lived for 11 years in the Lakenheath area."

He and his family spend much of their spare time exploring the area and the fighter pilot said they had several "favourite spots" where they liked to go.

He currently lives on base with his wife and two young sons but though RAF Lakenheath is like a mini American city the family do not confine themselves to its boundaries.

The youngest son, much like his father, has lived in the region for most of his life and both boys have adopted some very English customs.

"They like football (soccer) rather than American football," said Col Silveria.

"They can name the England side but they cannot name the American football teams.

"My youngest son has lived here a total of eight years.

"He goes to the village primary school at Feltwell and my wife is on the board of governors there but both will be in High School this year."

During his career, Col Silveria has flown combat missions over the Balkans and Iraq and served as vice commander at the Bagram air base in Afghanistan.

He has clocked up more than 3,600 flight hours in the course of his work and currently flies the F15 jetfighter as well as being responsible for the American Air Force's Statue of Liberty Wing.

The Liberty Wing contains approximately of 5,000 active military personnel and 2,000 civilians across both Lakenheath and RAF Feltwell.

As well his responsibility for those on the base, the colonel also has to liaise with the local community.

He said: "Community relations are really important.

"You cannot do what we do without the support of the local community."

If the pressure of such responsibility ever does get to him Col Silveria would never let you know, after all, he is a man who has achieved and exceeded his childhood dream.

"I am the luckiest guy alive," he said.

"When I was here as a boy, my father was in aircraft maintenance and I always said I wanted to come back to fly the F111.

"I was too late to fly the F111s but I get to fly the F15."

And it seems in the air is where Col Silveria is happiest. If the adrenalin rush of flying a jet fighter were not enough, currently he is learning to fly a helicopter in his spare time.

So having experienced the base over more than three decades has much changed in that time?

"The biggest thing that has changed is the mission," said Col Silveria.

"Before we were part of the cold war infrastructure and part of that was being ready to defend the base.

"Now our mission is to provide combat power, support and services wherever they are needed."

Col Silveria's posting is indefinite but he expects it to last around two years.

He said he hoped his next posting would also be in Europe to allow him and his family to explore more of the continent.

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