Planning critical to Red Flag - Alaska success

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Justin Weaver
  • 354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Coalition and American pilots, aircrews and support members need a realistic training environment, and Red Flag - Alaska provides some of the most realistic training on earth.

Coordinating this training is the responsibility of the 353rd Combat Training Squadron members, who plan and prepare each Red Flag - Alaska exercise.

"Red Flag - Alaska exercises are unique in that we can customize each exercise to meet the needs of the different units requesting training," said Capt. Ron Strobach, the Red Flag - Alaska team chief.

"We usually meet with the requesting units four months prior to an exercise," Captain Strobach said. "During the three-day planning conference we discuss how they want to train, execute and complete their training mission."

As long as the training requested does not exceed the parameters the 353rd CTS has established, a unit can request anything from close-air support and personnel recovery to traditional air-to-air or special operations, he said.

"International forces and sister branches are eager to participate in RF-A exercises because of the advanced training environment we provide," Captain Strobach said. 

Members of the 353rd CTS control the Pacific Alaska Range Complex's 67,000 square miles of airspace, one conventional bombing range and two tactical bombing ranges -- containing more than 400 different types of targets and more than 30 threat simulators both manned, and unmanned.

Additionally, Red Flag - Alaska provides a different climate and terrain where joint training can occur between services and allies.

"We don't go to war by ourselves," Captain Strobach said. "We will always work in some way with coalition forces. Training here at Red Flag - Alaska helps us overcome the differences that might arise in the area of responsibility when working with foreign countries in combat situations."

Once each attending unit determines the training they would like to perform, the 353rd CTS staff puts together a specific plan for the participants. The plan includes details such as how many bombs they would like to drop, what aircraft they would like to bring and how many sorties they would like to fly each day.

The 353rd CTS staff also works out the logistics to host more than 1,000 people on Eielson Eielson.

"Currently we only have enough room for about 750 people on base," Captain Strobach said. "As Red Flag - Alaska exercises continue to ramp up, more funding should become available to support an influx of up to 1,500 people on base."

Captain Strobach, who has played an integral part in more than 11 RF-A exercises equates the preparation and running of an exercise to that of a skilled juggler balancing plates on the ends of sticks.

"If one plate is off balance, it would throw the entire exercise off," he said. "It's our job to make sure we balance every part to make these exercises a success."

To ensure success, the Red Flag - Alaska team will spend the next few months ironing out the details and logistics of the upcoming exercise.

"The ultimate goal of RF-A exercises is to increase the friendship and closeness of our coalition and U.S. forces and to have them leave here better trained," Captain Strobach said. "It's a win-win situation for everyone involved. To watch international forces come together and understand how each country operates is awesome."

This year's first Red Flag-Alaska exercise takes place April 5 to 20.

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