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First 2007 Red Flag-Alaska ends on positive note

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. David Tomiyama
  • Red Flag-Alaska Public Affairs
The year's first Red Flag-Alaska-- a multi-service, multi-platform, combat operations exercise involving coalition forces--ended today after two weeks of intense, air-combat training over Alaska's mountain ranges. 

Training in a joint environment with coalition forces is an opportunity that cannot be underemphasized explained the host squadron's commander. 

"Exercises such as Red Flag-Alaska provide an invaluable opportunity to interact with our allies, not only at the tactical level, but socially as well," said Lt. Col. Eddie Osteen, 353rd Combat Training Squadron commander. 

"It's a testament to interoperability that such diverse units from the Air Force, Navy, Air National Guard, France and Australia, can come together and after a day of familiarization flights and planning, immediately begin executing combat training missions with success against a robust air and ground threat." 

With pilots practicing maneuvers at high speeds in unfamiliar air space amongst aircraft some of them have never trained with previously, ensuring everybody's safety was a key issue. Fortunately, no accidents or major incidents occurred. 

"Anything less than sending home the same number of people and airplanes that deployed to Red Flag-Alaska would constitute failure," Colonel Osteen said. 

Another vital aspect of the exercise included aircraft upkeep performed by professional ground crews accompanying each participating unit; Red Flag-Alaska 07-1 incurred only minor maintenance issues. 

"Maintenance has gone extremely well; with a few exceptions, all units have met the daily flying schedule," said Lt. Col. David Stimac, 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander and RF-A 07-01 Maintenance Group commander. "We did have a few parts issues with the French AWACS and Mirage, but they did a great job of fixing the aircraft when the parts arrived from France." 

A lesson participants continue to learn from RF-A is "losing" aircraft during missions due to misidentification and enemy kills and having to adjust accordingly. 

"In an exercise you get to fly those aircraft again tomorrow; in the real world, the aircrew and aircraft may be gone forever," Colonel Osteen said. "If you lose your B-1s to enemy aircraft before they get to their targets, your mission is a failure since well over half your targets weren't struck--in the real world those targets still have to be taken out tomorrow and without those bombers." 

Finding a common language with joint and coalition forces is an experience everybody learns from, and RF-A 07-1 was no different. Colonel Osteen said his hat's off to the French airmen who participated in the exercise. 

"As an American, imagine being at a deployed location and trying to fight a war, but having to do all your coordinating and fighting in (the) French (language)," Colonel Osteen said. "Considering that challenge, it's remarkable how successful we are and it's a testament to the work that has been done in the past to build those relationships and break those barriers." 

According to Colonel Osteen, one of the greatest challenges of the exercise is welcoming in a large contingent of personnel and as RF-A continues to expand, Eielson AFB will grow along with it. 

"Through our own initiatives as well as the feedback from our exercise participants, we'll continue to improve the quality of life and morale for deployed forces," Colonel Osteen said. "Our job is to make sure that lodging, dining, transportation, and morale, welfare and recreation activities keep pace." 

Overall, Colonel Osteen said due to the overall teamwork of everybody involved, he felt RF-A 07-01 was a success. 

"This couldn't have happened without the effort of every deployed individual to include maintenance, combat support, and operations," Colonel Osteen said. "Not every mission was perfect--no mission is perfect--and that's why we deploy and train together before we potentially deploy and fight together." 

Colonel Stimac agreed. 

This has been a great deployment for maintenance; the outstanding professionalism and team work displayed from all the units made the job extremely easy," he said. "Give credit to the RF-A staff and to everyone at Eielson for the awesome support they provided; their preparation set us up for success." 

American units here hailed from, Luke AFB, Ariz.; Ellsworth AFB, S.D.; Travis AFB, Calif.; McGuire AFB, N.J.; Nellis AFB, Nev., Kulis ANGB, Alaska; and the Strike Fighter Squadron Eight Seven, Naval Air Station Oceana, Va. 

Joint forces airframes included the F-16, F-18, B-1, KC-10 and HH-160. France brought the Mirage 2000, C-130, C-160 and an E-3 AWACS. More than 1,300 personnel deployed here for Red Flag-Alaska 07-01. 

The next Red Flag-Alaska is scheduled to start at the end of May.