EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska --
Groups of pilots and mission coordinators jostle their eyes between a large screen and a map of the airspace during a mission planning brief with Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, a fellow Air Force base out of Anchorage, Alaska, on June 12.
After a training scenario explanation, the chatter of tactical plans and counter-attacks bounced back and forth between personnel as they prepared for a large force exercise mission during RED FLAG-Alaska 17-2.
“We are preparing by integrating multinational, multi-mission design series solutions to tactical problems,” added Lt. Col. Travis Ruhl, 353rd Combat Training Squadron commander. “We prepare because this could be a team in the PACAF area of responsibility that will go out to fight.”
Maj. Zachary Fennel, the 353rd CTS range division and RF-A 17-2 team chief said the goal for RF-A was to give personnel the best combat training they had ever participated in. He added that participants had the opportunity to get high-intensity training they normally would not receive at their home stations.
Prior to the exercise, Eielson worked with several U.S. and foreign forces to get the ball rolling.
“Our participants get good training from the USAF and I believe RF-A supports that,” said Japan Air Self-Defense Force Maj. Kego Ito, RF-A chief of administration out of Yokota, Japan. “I personally enjoy debriefing together because we can all go over common lessons learned from a mission, and I believe the process is excellent.”
Much of the initial planning included ways of creating training scenarios which tested PACAF’s strategic approach to maintain credible combat power in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, while showcasing how challenges are best met together.
“This planning phase determines if our mission will be a success or not,” said Capt. Lloyd Wright, the 354th Operations Group air-boss. “If the units don’t work together and coordinate with each other, everyone could end up confused during a mission. Planning is vital.”
About 6 months prior to RF-A, many representatives from all squadrons came together for a week-long planning conference.
“We outlined 70 to 80 percent of the exercise in that week,” said Maj. Daniel Krowinski, the 353rd CTS director of operations. “We discussed everything from the logistical standpoint of getting people here and set-up in lodging, all the way to planning the training scenarios with the pilots.”
For the remaining 6 months, they coordinated with other nations to smooth out their plans.
After mission planning, Eielson worked along with the JASDF, the Royal Thai Air Force and the Republic of Korea Air Force during the exercise to function as a cohesive team, and practiced securing the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
“The exercise was executed mostly as planned and upheld our expectations,” said ROKAF Capt. Jun-mo Yang, a 20th Fighter Wing pilot. “There is always new equipment and new types of mission[s] during every RF-A. Therefore, planning and coordination during [it] is critical to carrying out the exercise.”
Yang added he liked Alaska’s expansive air space as well as being able to learn how to apply practical flight studies back in Korea to better their training methods.
“With the way wars are now, fighting unilaterally is not expected,” Krowinski said. “It’s important we train with our coalition partners in the Pacific theatre. It may be a small thing, but having direct contact while mission planning and understanding our differences improves mission fluidity and breaks down language barriers.”
Altogether, approximately 1,500 personnel joined forces to make the entire exercise a success.
“With all the people participating, I think it’s pretty impactful,” Krowinski said. “This could be the only time some of these Airmen have an opportunity to train on a large force scale before going into combat.”
As they continue through the second RF-A of the fiscal year, personnel are already planning for the third, promising for a great experience.
“There’s always more to learn with our allies,” Krowinski said. “Training together can only further enhance our unity, allowing us to deliver better rapid and precise air, space and cyberspace capabilities to protect and defend the United States, its territories and our allies and partners.”