Air Warrior transforms into new Green Flag

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Tonya Keebaugh and Senior Airman Travis Edwards
  • 99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
With the ever-changing fight in the war on terrorism, thus goes the Air Force with the incarnation, or re-incarnation, of Green Flag.

The Air Warrior exercises here and at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., have officially become the Air Force's premier pre-deployment exercises for Air Combat Command flying units who perform close-air support and precision-guided munitions delivery. They are now known as Green Flag West (Nellis) and Green Flag East (Barksdale). 

"The mission changed to emphasize the unique aspects of Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom, where the Army and Air Force missions are closely related in air-to-ground combat," said Lt. Col. Phil Barks, 549th Combat Training Squadron commander at Nellis. 

The Air Force previously had a Green Flag, which focused on electronic warfare, but it was later integrated into Red Flag. The new Green Flag is geared toward the current ground fight and the Air Force partnership with ground forces. 

"In the past, Air Warrior has focused mostly on traditional close-air-support missions. But, with the current situation on the ground, our Airmen are being called upon to provide support across a broad range of missions in an irregular warfare environment," Colonel Barks said.

As the Green Flag West host, the 549th CTS' mission is to provide air support to ground forces deployed to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. The squadron's counterpart, the 548th CTS at Barksdale AFB, provides the same support for the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La. NTC and JRTC have been the Army's mission rehearsal exercises for several years.

The Air Force is using the Green Flags to provide concurrent training to Airmen and prepare them for the types of missions and units they will support during war. 

"Our objective is to take the lessons learned over the past five years of conflict and provide the warfighter with the tools and training needed to better fight the war on terror," said Col. Thomas Webster, Joint Air to Ground Operations Group commander. 

Both Green Flag West and Green Flag East fall under the JAGOG, 57th Wing at Nellis. There are three substantial changes that transform Air Warrior into Green Flag, Colonel Barks said.

"First, we will change the scope of the exercise," Colonel Barks said. "So deploying forces will have an easier transition into the war. We will emphasize the unique aspects of the fight and special preparation for deployment, frequently working with the Army units which will deploy during the same timeframe." 

Secondly, he said that the mission will change from training aircrews on traditional close-air support to an exercise that stresses integration with Army maneuver units across a broad spectrum of activity, with special emphasis on counterinsurgency and irregular warfare. 

Finally, the squadrons must change the scheduling process to accommodate units already identified to deploy. No small task, so a new squadron is stepping in to help. 

"The goal (of the new squadron) is integration of the (air and space expeditionary force) construct into an actual method to have that force ready to rotate into the current fight and to be prepared for a contingency that we're not expecting but that might happen any day," said Maj. Gen. Stephen M. Goldfein, U.S. Air Force Warfare Center commander.

"I stood up a new squadron (Sept.29), the 561st Joint Tactics Squadron, who will be lining up the new tactics and developing a rotation for units to go," General Goldfein said. "(The squadron will be) tied to our major exercises like Green Flag and Red Flag, all designed to get our units ready to cycle smoothly in and out of the fight, prepared to do what the joint force air component commander needs them to do." 

Green Flag West will occur approximately 10 times per year; during each exercise, more than 5,000 Army troops and joint terminal attack controllers practice and hone their skills in the desert near Barstow, Calif. The 549th CTS works in conjunction with the 12th CTS at Fort Irwin.

Along with the Army troops, multiple coalition aircraft aid in the exercise.