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RED FLAG – Alaska results

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- More than 84 aircraft and 1,500 Air Force active duty, Reserve, and National Guard Airmen both here and at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska wrapped up and departed the first ever RED FLAG – Alaska to take place here April 24-May 5.

Pilots, maintainers, weapons loaders, intelligence units, joint terminal attack controllers, pararescuemen and support personnel joined by Navy and Army personnel worked together to generate more than 1,600 sorties and air drop more than 1,000 Soldiers in an exercise designed around its participants’ needs to be combat ready for upcoming deployments.

“The plan was for about 1,650 sorties to fly…97 plus percent of planned sorties flown over a 2 week period at two geographically separated locations in two areas of operation is pretty impressive,” said Capt. Ron Strobach, RED FLAG-Alaska project officer from the 353rd Combat Training Squadron.

The Air Expeditionary Wing in charge of the exercise recognized more than 130 top performers from 20 different Air Force units here and at Elmendorf AFB at the new Air Force-level exercise formerly known as Cope Thunder.

Col. John Dobbins, RF-A AEW commander, credited the “amazingly talented active duty, Reserve and Air National Guard Airmen who melded into a team focused on the exercises’ training objectives along with a staff that provided the exercise backdrop and support,” for the success. He thanked the two host wings at Eielson and Elmendorf for “spectacular support” from the personnel and airfield infrastructure which he said was another “key component to success.”

“We met the primary objective of making aircrews more capable, survivable and knowledgeable. Everyone will take away something different as most valuable to them—new knowledge, new friends, better ways of doing things or more understanding of how all the different parts must work together,” Colonel Dobbins said.

“What it has reinforced for me is how well the Air Force and our sister services do their mission. We can assemble a hodgepodge of units from around the world, and in less than a week form a cohesive unit that can generate highly effective airpower,” he said.|

The inaugural participation of the 64th Aggressor Squadron from Nellis AFB, Nev., whose sole mission is to study and replicate enemy flight tactics, was the biggest difference for the exercise and marks the beginning of further enhancements for future exercises here at Eielson AFB.

“Having the Aggressors here was obviously a big plus to threat replication,” Colonel Dobbins said. “But we still need to determine if RED FLAG – Alaska is meant to be a large force employment exercise or a spin up for Air Expeditionary Force rotations. While not totally incompatible, that decision will determine where to focus limited resources to improve facilities and infrastructure, and for units, in planning future RED FLAG training objectives.”

From the Aggressor perspective, the exercise was a complete success, said Col. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, 57th Adversary Tactics Group Commander at Nellis.

“The feedback we received from the participants was that the addition of the Aggressors brought the training level of this exercise to a new level,” Col. O’Shaughnessy said. “We view this as a very positive first step in Aggressor participation and look forward to the next Red Flag - Alaska when we can participate with not only our Air Aggressors, but also our Space and Air Defense Aggressors.”

The exercise also allowed the 64th AGRS to build strong relationships between the Red Flag - Nellis staff and the Red Flag - Alaska staff that will ultimately improve the quality of both exercises – “we learn from each other and build on each of our strengths,” Colonel O’Shaughnessy said.

For future exercises, Captain Stobach said it is hard to say what they’ll ‘change’.

“There’s always fine tuning our process, but each exercise has its own requirements based on participant goals,” he said. “We’ll continue to tailor the exercise to their goals. Customizing the exercise to participant needs is one positive comment that always comes back to the 353rd CTS staff after each exercise.”

Eielson AFB’s next exercise, Northern Edge, will take place here in less than a month, followed by Cooperative Cope Thunder in June.
(Courtesy of Pacific Air Forces)