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.