Luke team trains for combat at Red Flag-Alaska

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Scott Farrow
  • 354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Airmen from Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., are deployed to participate in Red Flag-Alaska, a multi-service, multi-platform coordinated, combat operations exercise at Eielson AFB.

Thirteen instructor pilots, six operations support staff and more than 60 maintainers made the 2,600-mile trek to take part in the two-week long exercise that ends April 20. 

Red Flag-Alaska enables aviation units to sharpen combat skills by flying simulated combat sorties in a realistic threat environment and maintaining the aircraft under expeditionary conditions. Additionally, the training allows pilots to exchange tactics, techniques and procedures and improve interoperability, which is right up the alley for the instructor pilots who teach the basics of F-16 Fighting Falcon flying and integration at Luke AFB.

"Most of the students we teach have been flying for the Air Force for about a year and-a half," said Capt. William McKibban, a 61st Fighter Squadron instructor pilot. "Their course is about six to nine months with us, then they go to their first combat squadron, so we take them to the next level (although its not nearly the end of the line)."

Captain McKibban said although they teach qualified fighter pilots to be flight leads and instructors, a lot of their time at Luke AFB is spent focusing on Airmen just out of pilot training, and that's why its such a thrill for them to be able to participate in Red Flag-Alaska.

Aviators aren't the only members of the Luke AFB team getting a lot out of the exercise.

Everyday work at any home station can become routine, said 1st. Lt. Sarah Ziegler, the 61st FS maintenance officer in charge. 

"Being part of Red Flag-Alaska brings us closer to carrying out the fight, and the expeditionary mindset is different from what we experience day to day," she said. "It is great to work in a multinational and joint environment and to know we are a part of the big picture mission of preparing an expeditionary fighting force.

"Our maintainers have to generate sorties while working with limited resources, so the sense of pride is even greater when our jets take off to join the fight," she said. "For some of our younger Airmen, this is the first time they are seeing how the (air expeditionary force) concept works so it is very valuable training for their future."

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