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Services squadron caters to Red Flag-Alaska participants

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- As 1,300 U.S., French and Australian military members gather here for Red Flag-Alaska 07-01, April 5-20, the services squadron ensures their needs away from the flightline are taken care of. 

"Across services we're feeling it (Red Flag-Alaska) but this is an exciting time for us to be here to see the change from Cope Thunder to Red Flag-Alaska," said Senior Master Sgt. Vernon Griffith, 354th SVS superintendent. "There are some growing challenges associated with that and we're certainly working on those and dealing with those issues." 

Red Flag-Alaska is a series of Pacific Air Forces commander-directed field training exercises for U.S. forces, provides joint offensive counter-air, interdiction, close air support, and large force employment training in a simulated combat environment.
As Red Flag-Alaska continues to grow and evolve with each exercise, the services squadron is keeping pace with the changes. 

One of the first changes services will make is the upgrade of the dining facility. 

During the peak meal times, long lines and waiting for seats is common. To combat this problem, more than $500,000 is being allotted to the dining facility to expand the serving and seating areas and replace old equipment. Next summer's Red Flag-Alaska should see these changes, said Master Sgt. Tommy Gonzales, 354th SVS food service section chief. 

For Red Flag-Alaska 07-01, lodging faced the task of billeting close to 850 personnel. Eielson's lodging has room for 550 people. Close to 300 personnel were assigned to contingency dorms at no cost to the units. This was the first time contingency dorms were used for Red Flag-Alaska or its predecessor, Cope Thunder. 

To provide more rooms and give relief to billeting, contingency dormitories are scheduled to be built by the 354th Civil Engineering Squadron. CE is scheduled to convert a dormitory into a contingency dormitory which will house 114 beds by June. Another dormitory is scheduled to be converted by August 2008. A brand new contingency dormitory is scheduled to open in 2010 that will have 300 beds, said Jeff Putnam, 354th CES deputy base civil engineer. 

Contingency dormitories are similar to single Airmen dorms, said Andy Flores, 354th SVS Goldrush Inn general manager. Personnel assigned to the dormitories share rooms, bathrooms and a day room and must pick up after themselves. 

Red Flag-Alaska 07-01 took on the challenge of providing Airmen options during their free time. Red Flag, in Nellis AFB, Nev., is 15 minutes away from downtown Las Vegas. 

Eielson AFB is 40 minutes away from the small town of Fairbanks. Services' information, tickets and tours/outdoor recreation lined up tours and activities at discounted prices and transportation to and from the programs. For the first time in Red Flag-Alaska/Cope Thunder history, services brought these opportunities directly to Airmen by setting up booths at mass briefings and in work areas. 

"We've taken ITT/Outdoor Rec directly to the troops," said Kerry Knorr, 354th SVS arts and crafts director. "We've provided a concierge service with our main goal of establishing a one-stop place for trips, tours, shopping or anything to do in the local area." 

As Eielson AFB's mission gradually becomes more Red Flag-Alaska oriented, services is there to ensure personnel are taken care of.