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Red Flag-Alaska ends on positive note

Four F-16 Fighting Falcon pilots step to their jets prior to a mission April 17 during Red Flag-Alaska exercise at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Red Flag-Alaska is a Pacific Air Forces-directed field training exercise for U.S. forces flown under simulated air combat conditions. It is conducted on the Pacific Alaskan Range Complex with air operations flown out of Eielson and Elmendorf Air Force Bases. The Airmen are from the 64th Aggressor Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt Joshua Strang)

Four F-16 Fighting Falcon pilots step to their jets prior to a mission April 17 during Red Flag-Alaska exercise at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Red Flag-Alaska is a Pacific Air Forces-directed field training exercise for U.S. forces flown under simulated air combat conditions. It is conducted on the Pacific Alaskan Range Complex with air operations flown out of Eielson and Elmendorf Air Force Bases. The Airmen are from the 64th Aggressor Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt Joshua Strang)

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska (AFNEWS) -- The year's first Red Flag-Alaska ended April 20 after two weeks of intense, air-combat training over Alaska's mountain ranges.

Training in a multi-service, multi-platform, combat operations exercise involving coalition forces was an opportunity that cannot be underemphasized, said Lt. Col. Eddie Osteen, the 353rd Combat Training Squadron commander and the host squadron commander.

"Exercises such as Red Flag-Alaska provide an invaluable opportunity to interact with our allies, not only at the tactical level, but socially as well," Colonel Osteen said. "It's a testament to interoperability that such diverse units from the Air Force, Navy, Air National Guard, France and Australia can come together and after a day of familiarization flights and planning, immediately begin executing combat training missions with success against a robust air and ground threat."

With pilots practicing maneuvers at high speeds in unfamiliar air space amongst aircraft some of them have never trained with previously, ensuring everybody's safety was a key issue. No accidents or major incidents occurred.

"Anything less than sending home the same number of people and airplanes that deployed to Red Flag-Alaska would constitute failure," Colonel Osteen said.

Another vital aspect of the exercise included aircraft upkeep performed by ground crews accompanying each participating unit. Red Flag-Alaska 07-1 incurred only minor maintenance issues.

"Maintenance has gone extremely well, with a few exceptions. All units have met the daily flying schedule," said Lt. Col. David Stimac, the 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander and Red Flag-Alaska Maintenance Group commander.

A lesson participants continue to learn from Red Flag-Alaska is "losing" aircraft during missions due to misidentification and enemy kills and having to adjust accordingly.

"In an exercise you get to fly those aircraft again tomorrow. In the real world, the aircrew and aircraft may be gone forever," Colonel Osteen said. "If you lose your B-1 (Lancers) to enemy aircraft before they get to their targets, your mission is a failure since well over half your targets weren't struck. In the real world those targets still have to be taken out tomorrow, and without those bombers."

Finding a common language with joint and coalition forces is an experience everybody learns from, and Red Flag-Alaska was no different. Colonel Osteen said his hat goes off to the French airmen who participated in the exercise.

"As an American, imagine being at a deployed location and trying to fight a war, but having to do all your coordinating and fighting in (the) French (language)," Colonel Osteen said. "Considering that challenge, it's remarkable how successful we are and it's a testament to the work that has been done in the past to build those relationships and break those barriers."

One of the greatest challenges of the exercise was welcoming in a large contingent of people, and as Red Flag-Alaska continues to expand, Eielson Air Force Base will grow along with it, Colonel Osteen said.

"Through our own initiatives as well as the feedback from our exercise participants, we'll continue to improve the quality of life and morale for deployed forces," Colonel Osteen said. "Our job is to make sure that lodging, dining, transportation, and morale, welfare and recreation activities keep pace."

Overall, Colonel Osteen said due to the overall teamwork of everybody involved, he felt Red Flag-Alaska 07-01 was a success.

"This couldn't have happened without the effort of every deployed individual to include maintenance, combat support, and operations," Colonel Osteen said. "Not every mission was perfect -- no mission is perfect -- and that's why we deploy and train together before we potentially deploy and fight together.

"This has been a great deployment for maintenance. The outstanding professionalism and teamwork displayed from all the units made the job extremely easy," Colonel Stimac said. "Give credit to the Red Flag-Alaska staff and to everyone at Eielson for the awesome support they provided. Their preparation set us up for success."

American units that participated in Red Flag-Alaska were from Luke AFB, Ariz.; Ellsworth AFB, S.D.; Travis AFB, Calif.; McGuire AFB, N.J.; Nellis AFB, Nev., Kulis Air National Guard Base, Alaska; and the Navy Strike Fighter Squadron Eight Seven from Naval Air Station Oceana, Va.

Joint forces airframes included the F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-18 Hornet, B-1B, KC-10 Extender and the HH-160. French airmen brought the Mirage 2000, C-130, C-160 and an E-3 AWACS. More than 1,300 military members deployed here for Red Flag-Alaska 07-01.

The next Red Flag-Alaska is scheduled to start at the end of May.

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