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Misawa F-16 unit flying high at Cooperative Cope Thunder

Capt. David Deangelis and Airman 1st Class Robert Fields perform pre-flight checks on an F-16 Fighting Falcon at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, on July 19. The Airmen are with the 13th Fighter Squadron based at Misawa Air Base, Japan, and are participating in the exercise Cooperative Cope Thunder 06-3. (Photo by Cpl. J.A. Wilson, Canadian Public Affairs)

Capt. David Deangelis and Airman 1st Class Robert Fields perform pre-flight checks on an F-16 Fighting Falcon at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, on July 19. The Airmen are with the 13th Fighter Squadron based at Misawa Air Base, Japan, and are participating in the exercise Cooperative Cope Thunder 06-3. (Photo by Cpl. J.A. Wilson, Canadian Public Affairs)

An Airman watches as an F-16 Fighting Falcon taxis past F-15s from the Japan Air Self Defense Force at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, on July 19. The F-16 was launching on a familiarization flight of Alaskan air space before the kick off of Cooperative Cope Thunder 06-3. (Photo by Cpl. J.A. Wilson, Canadian Public Affairs)

An Airman watches as an F-16 Fighting Falcon taxis past F-15s from the Japan Air Self Defense Force at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, on July 19. The F-16 was launching on a familiarization flight of Alaskan air space before the kick off of Cooperative Cope Thunder 06-3. (Photo by Cpl. J.A. Wilson, Canadian Public Affairs)

First Lt. Ken Fravor performs pre-flight checks on an F-16 Fighting Falcon piloted by Lt. Col. Steve Williams, commander of the 13th Fighter Squadron. Lieutenant Fravor is also assigned to the 13th FS at Misawa Air Base, Japan. The squadron is participating in Cooperative Cope Thunder 06-3 at Elelson Air Force Base, Alaska. (Photo by Cpl. J.A. Wilson, Canadian Public Affairs)

First Lt. Ken Fravor performs pre-flight checks on an F-16 Fighting Falcon piloted by Lt. Col. Steve Williams, commander of the 13th Fighter Squadron. Lieutenant Fravor is also assigned to the 13th FS at Misawa Air Base, Japan. The squadron is participating in Cooperative Cope Thunder 06-3 at Elelson Air Force Base, Alaska. (Photo by Cpl. J.A. Wilson, Canadian Public Affairs)

Aircraft maintainers from the 13th Fighter Squadron at Misawa Air Base, Japan, look under the belly of an F-16 Fighting Falcon to see what caused a failure to launch for a familiarization flight on July 19. The squadron is participating in Cooperative Cope Thunder 06-3 at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. (Photo by Cpl. J.A. Wilson, Canadian Public Affairs)

Aircraft maintainers from the 13th Fighter Squadron at Misawa Air Base, Japan, look under the belly of an F-16 Fighting Falcon to see what caused a failure to launch for a familiarization flight on July 19. The squadron is participating in Cooperative Cope Thunder 06-3 at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. (Photo by Cpl. J.A. Wilson, Canadian Public Affairs)

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- Misawa Air Base pilots and support staff are taking advantage of realistic air combat training this week during Cooperative Cope Thunder here.

The 13th Fighter Squadron brought about 40 pilots and support Airmen and 12 block 50 F-16 aircraft - the only exercise asset that can provide both air-to-air and air-to-ground capabilities - from their home station in Japan to participate in the Pacific Air Forces' largest joint and bilateral air combat exercise.

As U.S. forces continue to transform in order to meet emerging security challenges in the Asia Pacific region, exercises like Cooperative Cope Thunder bring partner nations together to ensure peace and stability in the region.

"We're here to validate and improve our ability to conduct flying operations in a large force exercise alongside our allied forces," said Lt. Col. Stephen Williams, 13th Fighter Squadron and 35th Air Expeditionary Wing Operations Group commander. "We are executing Suppression of Enemy Air Defense and Destruction of Enemy Air Defense missions here, which we do on a daily basis at Misawa, and are incorporating it into the big picture with allied aircraft giving us a chance to really put our skills to the test."

Some of the challenges the squadron will face include communication and collaboration with allied forces like Sweden, Canada, Japan, Mongolia, NATO, South Korea, Bangladesh, Germany, Slovak Republic, Australia.

"We'll come out of this with a better understanding of how we all fit into the big picture and how to operate successfully," said Colonel Williams. "Language barriers will always be difficult. That's why it's great that we can work face to face in an exercise environment to overcome them."

Colonel Williams compares CCT training missions to a "scrimmage" to prepare for "game day," which would be combat missions.

There is no better place to practice for game day than the Pacific Alaska Range Complex, according to Captain Pete Schnobrich, 13th FS pilot.

"The ranges are awesome," said the captain about the U.S.'s largest military overland and airspace training range spanning 68,000 square miles. "This exercise and the ranges here afford us the opportunity to fly our mission over land, which we don't do much of at Misawa. It provides us with the realistic training with other countries that we'll need for real world deployments."

As long as 13th FS pilots are flying, support crews are hard at work behind the scenes.
Airman 1st Class Eric Frantz, 13th FS aviation resource manager, is part of the duty desk team, the pulse of the squadron, which manages sorties, currencies and the total hours flown by exercise pilots. While here, they are getting an opportunity to test new ways of doing business while in a simulated combat environment.

They too will face some challenges.

"Besides the 23 hours of sunlight here in Alaska, the biggest challenge for us will be using new software that our squadron just received used for managing all information related to the squadron's sorties," said Airman Frantz.

Not only did the duty desk team learn new software, but they taught their Japanese Air Self-Defense Force counterparts how to use it.

Airman Frantz trained Japanese Air Self Defense Force airmen how to input sortie information into the new software system's database, which the Japanese don't customarily do.

"This is what it's all about," said Colonel Williams about CCT training. "We're putting our skills to the test with our allied forces, working hard and learning from each other."