Alaskan wing deploys to Singapore

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Johnny Rea
  • 3rd Wing Public Affairs
A 3rd Wing contingent here deployed to the Republic of Singapore Oct. 23 to take on that nation's air force in an annual air-to-air combat exercise.

About 100 people, mostly from the 12th Fighter Squadron, and six F-15 Eagles are participating in exercise Commando Sling 2003.

The exercise allows Elmendorf participants to sharpen air combat skills, improve procedures for sustained operations at a non-U.S. base, and promote closer relations between the two air forces and nations, according to Lt. Col. Thomas Tinsley, commander of the 12th FS.

"Commando Sling allows us to deploy and train in a different operating location," said Tinsley, who is leading the U.S. contingent during the 25-day exercise. "It gives our pilots and maintainers the opportunity to experience different operational constraints and challenges, which ultimately hones our ability to deploy anywhere in the world."

The annual Commando Sling series began in 1990 to provide valuable combined air combat training for U.S. Air Force and Republic of Singapore air force units.

The 3rd Wing is the sole U.S. representative for this exercise and will engage in dissimilar air combat training against the Singapore air force's F-5 Tiger, A-4 Skyhawk and F-16 Falcon aircraft.

Tinsley said the milder weather in Singapore allows for a higher sortie rate than what the squadron experiences at Elmendorf this time of year.

"The winters in Alaska are dark and the weather can be brutal, so we're looking forward to keeping our pilot and maintenance proficiency high during this exercise," he said.

"I volunteered to go on this one because it's a good opportunity to see another part of the world," said Staff Sgt. Benjermin Grassnick, an F-15 jet engine mechanic with the 12th Aircraft Maintenance Unit.

The 10-year Air Force veteran said most of the maintainers are excited and motivated about deploying to Singapore. "The training will be good and I think it's important for us to show a presence in the Pacific region right now."

Commando Sling comes on the heels of a very busy year for the 12th FS. It deployed hundreds of Arctic Warriors to Saudi Arabia in the spring, patrolling the no-fly zone in southern Iraq in support of Operation Southern Watch.

"The Dirty Dozen warriors are always ready to deploy and we have had a huge turnover of our people this summer," Tinsley said. "So the 'old heads' are looking forward to taking the new youngsters on the road and showing them the ropes."

The commander also stressed the importance of community support during a deployment.

"It's the Air Force and civilian community coming together during these deployments that makes the sacrifices and burdens our families face easier to deal with while we are gone," he said. "We simply couldn't do it without them, and we thank them."