KC-135s refuel international partners at Red Flag-Alaska

A Republic of Korea Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker, above Canada, during Red Flag-Alaska 17-2, June 13, 2017. Red Flag is an international exercise aimed to enhance partnerships and combat effectiveness. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Chris Thornbury)

A Republic of Korea Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon receives fuel from a U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker, above Canada, during Red Flag-Alaska (RF-A) 17-2, June 13, 2017. RF-A enhances security relations with key partner nations by demonstrating U.S. resolve to support the security and humanitarian interests of friends and allies in the region. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Chris Thornbury)

Senior Airman Jeffrey Jaskela, 350th Air Refueling Squadron boom operator, refuels an F-18 Hornet, above Canada, during Red Flag-Alaska 17-2, June 12, 2017. Four McConnell aircrew took two KC-135 Stratotankers to Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, to provide warfighting support during the two-week exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Chris Thornbury)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jeffrey Jaskela, 350th Air Refueling Squadron boom operator, refuels a U.S. Marine Corps F-18 Hornet, above Canada, during Red Flag-Alaska (RF-A) 17-2, June 12, 2017. Four aircrew members from McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., took two KC-135 Stratotankers to Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, to provide warfighting support during the 2-week exercise that aims to develop and improve U.S. and partner nation combat readiness and combined interoperability. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Chris Thornbury)

A KC-135 Stratotanker takes-off during Red Flag-Alaska 17-2, June 14, 2017, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Four McConnell aircrew took two KC-135s to provide warfighting support during the two-week exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Chris Thornbury)

A U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker takes-off during Red Flag-Alaska (RF-A) 17-2 at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, June 14, 2017. Four aircrew from McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., took two KC-135s to provide warfighting support during RF-A, a 2-week exercise that aims to develop and improve U.S. and partner nation combat readiness and combined interoperability. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Chris Thornbury)

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. --

Four McConnell aircrews took two KC-135 Stratotankers to Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, to provide joint warfighting support during the 2-week exercise, Red Flag-Alaska 17-2, which began June 12.

 

The exercise puts two forces against one another; blue, the allies, versus red, the aggressors. The goal is to prepare aircrew for difficult situations and build a stronger coalition with foreign allies while learning how to efficiently complete the mission.

 

"Red Flag gives fighters a chance to fight and practice various tactics before they go to war from bomb runs to dog-fights," said Staff Sgt. Josh Garrett, 350th Air Refueling Squadron boom operator and tanker task force planner. "Our role is to allow that to happen, we keep them in the air longer so they have an opportunity to [gain that experience.]"

 

The exercise is bringing together allies that the tanker task force has less experience working with the Japan Air Self-Defense Force and Republic of Korea Air Force.

 

"We refuel more than just American aircraft, we work with our coalition brethren in overseas battlespace as well," said Garrett. "It further defines the meaning of 'one team, one fight.' We are used to using that phrase across our Air Force, but now we're talking about other nation’s militaries that we operate with and it unifies us."

 

Being an international exercise, Airmen must overcome language barriers. Practicing during an exercise provides an opportunity to learn how to break the barrier when lives are not on the line.

"It feels really good being a part of an exercise that provides the force with a realistic perspective on what scenario like this would be like," said Senior Airman Jeffrey Jaskela, 350th ARS boom operator.

 

Throughout missions in contested environments, tankers enable the limited-ranged fighters, and the fighters protect the weaponless tankers. Without one, neither can be successful.