YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan --
Airmen with, and in support of, the 36th Airlift Squadron returned to Yokota Air Base Aug. 24 after traveling to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Aug. 2 through 24 to train combat airlift capabilities and increase joint and multinational relationships at RED FLAG-Alaska.
The 98-member team, made up of aircrew, maintainers, logistics, intelligence, riggers and other support members, worked alongside service members from six other nations.
RED FLAG-Alaska allowed the aircrew to focus on and increase their combat capabilities, an important priority for a team stationed at the primary airlift hub in the Indo-Asia Pacific Region.
"I think the biggest take-away for our aircrew is the integration piece," said Capt. Ian Haig, 36th AS mission commander for RF-A. "You have strike, escort and airlift, and you get to see how the Air Force fights as one package going into an objective area or to degrade an enemy's air defense."
The aircrew members learned how to integrate with fighter aircraft in a high-end combat environment and used the Alaska training space for unfamiliar training routes.
According to Haig, the 36th AS aircrew members routinely fly at Yokota and throughout the Kanto region, covering familiar airspace and routes. The exercise offers the aircrew new routes and terrain, and with it, new experiences. Route study and an overall attention to planning and details are required when flying in an unfamiliar area.
"When I go out there and I am flying a mountain route to a drop zone that I have never been to before, I need to do that route study and use available resources and [intelligence] to familiarize myself with the upcoming area," Haig said.
In addition to the unfamiliar terrain, the aircrew used specialized equipment. During combat operations, the C-130 Hercules equipment emitters, not used during routine flights, allowied the team to hone their emitter capabilities to defeat radar threats.
The exercise provided a wide range of training for the aircrew, but Haig said, overall, the training increased the tactics, techniques and procedures of the airlift squadron.
"It increases the confidence of aircrew when you go out and fly with a 9,000-foot mountain on your right and your left while you are getting chased by enemy fighters," Haig added. "It makes us more combat capable."
Lt. Col. Dylan Baumgartner, RF-A commander, said RF-A 15-3 was the most airlift intensive in the exercise's history. The planning and execution proved to be challenging for the management team.
"Overall we were able to provide more training to the airlift participants than they would have otherwise received while keeping the scenarios focused enough across the exercise so that everyone hit their training objective," Baumgartner said.
Airlift was a major component during RF-A, but the multinational and joint nature of the exercise gave participants a unique training experience.
"We are really making great strides in our joint and multinational interaction," Baumgartner said. "We have always had international partners here but rarely have we had this many, so it was a really awesome aspect of this exercise."
Baumgartner said each nation had slightly different capabilities and configurations. Finding and using a standardized form of communication was a challenge. Once established, it allowed for efficient mission planning and effective execution.
"In the future, the participants here are going to know how to interact with other nations and other airframes that they don't usually interact with," Baumgartner added.