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Aggressors Enhance RED FLAG-Alaska 06-2

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- There has been much talk and anticipation leading up to the first RED FLAG-Alaska with the first dedicated Aggressor force to participate in the exercise that began here April 24.

The 64th Aggressor Squadron, based out of Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., is a renowned squadron of men and women dedicated to train U.S. and ally military forces using enemy tactics at RED FLAG - Nellis. Their presence here enhances the annual Pacific Air Forces exercise formerly known as Cope Thunder to a full-up Air Force level RED FLAG exercise.

Renaming and restructuring the exercise is part of the Chief of Staff’s new vision.

“General [T. Michael] Moseley was really the key driver who was trying to bring these two exercises closer together,” said Col. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, 57th Adversary Tactics Group Commander at Nellis. “He wanted Cope Thunder to be much more like a RED FLAG exercise, and would like them to be almost seamless to the participants whether they are at Nellis or up here at RED FLAG-Alaska.”

The intent is not to make them identical but to be essentially equivalent, Colonel O’Shaughnessy explained. Nellis has a smaller airspace, but it funnels into the target areas with a more seamless integration, he said. The Pacific Alaska Range Complex airspace covers 67,000 square miles or more than 43 million acres of land.

“Being in this type of setting is good in many respects,” Lt. Col. Greg Marzolf, 64th Aggressors Squadron Commander, said. In addition to size, the PARC is also more similar to areas overseas where units are being sent for deployments.

“Neither one is better, neither one is worse; we don’t look at them that way,” Colonel O’Shaughnessy said. “They are both very good exercises people should be excited to go to.”

However, the exercise isn’t easy.

“We like to see them do well,” said Colonel Marzolf. “It’s not about winning, it’s about giving them good training. But we have to make it tough on them. If we don’t make it tough, then they don’t learn anything.”

The Aggressors focus on giving a good presentation. They create a game plan based on known enemy tactics they have studied.

“A majority of our time is spent going through intelligence files to find out exactly what our adversaries’ capabilities are and the tactics they fly,” Colonel Marzolf said. “We go out and try to replicate, not just the presentations, but also the type of weapons that the enemy flies.”

As the training continues during the weeks, the Aggressors step up the presentation, making the missions harder each day.

“I like to say it’s about honing the razor’s edge,” said Colonel Marzolf. “Our guys are the best fighter pilots in the world. I don’t think anyone would question that. We’re about making them better.”

This exercise is just the beginning for Eielson and the Aggressors.

“Eielson is going to get its own Aggressors here at some point in time,” Colonel O’Shaughnessy said. “Part of this was a good opportunity for us to bring the Aggressors up here to get the first step in professional implication – like we say: crawl, walk, run.”

The Nellis Aggressors will be working closely with the Eielson Aggressors, Colonel O’Shaughnessy said, so the new team will carry on the same traditions the 64th AGRS has had. The RED FLAG staff at Nellis will also be working with their counterparts here to exchange good ideas and build strength off each other.

“We can take advantage of all the good things and we can start eliminating some of the things that aren’t done well in each place,” Colonel O’Shaughnessy said.

Neither exercise will happen concurrently in the future.

“Either RED FLAG-Alaska is going on or RED FLAG-Nellis is going on, but not at the same time, so maybe there are some opportunities for us to get some efficiencies and have one staff support the other,” Colonel O’Shaughnessy said.

According to Colonel O’Shaughnessy, RED FLAG – Alaska is just part of the Aggressors’ expanding role in Air Force-level training exercises.

“This truly is an important step that we’re taking,” Colonel O’Shaughnessy said. “It’s symbolic of where we’re trying to go with both the RED FLAG exercises, RED FLAG-Nellis and RED FLAG-Alaska, which is a seamless integration of the two exercises all with professional replication and growing to where the Aggressors can replicate the full spectrum of enemy capabilities.”

“In the future we will be able to bring space aggressors, information warfare aggressors and air defense aggressors to train our forces against the full spectrum of enemy capabilities ensuring our forces are well prepared for tomorrow's battles.” (Courtesy of Pacific Air Forces)