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Osan fighter wing enhances "fight tonight' readiness at Red Flag-Alaska

A variety of units aircraft and personnel gather in their ramp space as a pair of F-16 Fighting Falcons prepare to land at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Oct. 10, 2016, after the first Red Flag-Alaska 17-1 combat training mission. Red Flag-Alaska is a Pacific Air Forces commander-directed field training exercise and is vital to maintaining peace and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. The F-16s are assigned to the 36th Fighter Squadron at Osan Air Base, South Korea. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Karen J. Tomasik)

A variety of units aircraft and personnel gather in their ramp space as a pair of F-16 Fighting Falcons prepare to land at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Oct. 10, 2016, after the first Red Flag-Alaska 17-1 combat training mission. Red Flag-Alaska is a Pacific Air Forces commander-directed field training exercise and is vital to maintaining peace and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. The F-16s are assigned to the 36th Fighter Squadron at Osan Air Base, South Korea. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Karen J. Tomasik)

An F-15K Slam Eagle taxis down the Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, flight line Oct. 10, 2016, during Red Flag-Alaska 17-1. Red Flag-Alaska is a Pacific Air Forces commander-directed field training exercise and is vital to maintaining peace and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. The F-15K is assigned to the South Korea air force. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Karen J. Tomasik)

An F-15K Slam Eagle taxis down the Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, flight line Oct. 10, 2016, during Red Flag-Alaska 17-1. Red Flag-Alaska is a Pacific Air Forces commander-directed field training exercise and is vital to maintaining peace and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. The F-15K is assigned to the South Korea air force. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Karen J. Tomasik)

An A-10 Thunderbolt II  takes off from Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Oct. 10, 2016, during the first combat training mission of Red Flag-Alaska 17-1.  Red Flag-Alaska is a Pacific Air Forces commander-directed field training exercise and is vital to maintaining peace and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. The A-10 is assigned to the 25th Fighter Squadron out of Osan Air Base, South Korea (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Karen J. Tomasik)

An A-10 Thunderbolt II takes off from Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Oct. 10, 2016, during the first combat training mission of Red Flag-Alaska 17-1. Red Flag-Alaska is a Pacific Air Forces commander-directed field training exercise and is vital to maintaining peace and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. The A-10 is assigned to the 25th Fighter Squadron out of Osan Air Base, South Korea (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Karen J. Tomasik)

OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea (AFNS) -- The 25th and 36th Fighter Squadrons have been training during Red Flag-Alaska 17-1 at the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, Eielson Air Force Base and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, from Oct. 6-21.

Red Flag-Alaska is a Pacific Air Forces-directed field training exercise that focuses on improving the combat readiness of U.S. and international forces while simultaneously providing training for units preparing for air expeditionary force taskings.

“We're here to expose our pilots, particularly the younger ones, to more stress and pressure than they've ever experienced while airborne,” said Lt. Col. Michael McCarthy, the 36th FS commander. “Working through this stress and then carefully debriefing our planning and execution makes us more capable to handle and prioritize critical situations in the future.”

The fighter squadrons will test their skills during highly realistic replications of surface-to-air and air-to-air defenses while utilizing live weapons, something unique to Red Flag-Alaska 17-1.

“The live weapons target complex in Alaska is phenomenal,” said Lt. Col. Craig Morash, the 25th FS director of operations. “While every weapon dropped requires planning, live weapons expenditures illustrate just how important weapons fragmentation cylinders, mutual support contracts, and formation timing really are.”

The ranges there also allow the pilots to fly down to 100 feet, a skill that is vital to build confidence, he said.

The exercise also gave the pilots an opportunity to showcase the interoperability between the two squadrons and their South Korean air force partners.

“We train with our (South Korean Air Force) 11th Tactical Fighter Wing brethren often and know them very well,” McCarthy said. “We've truly enjoyed the opportunity to welcome them to the United States, but the experience is much more like friends who find themselves in a challenging situation together very far from home.”

International participation is a traditional part of Red Flag-Alaska which gives the 25th and 36th Fighter Squadrons unique training, furthering the squadrons’ abilities to “fight tonight.”

“The training we get here is extremely important,” Morash said. “The Alaskan ranges contain one of the best threat replication matrices on the planet along with live weapons targets. Pilots who flew in (Red Flag-Alaska 17-1) will take these lessons and experiences with them through their entire Air Force careers.”

McCarthy echoed those sentiments on behalf of his squadron’s pilots.

“Overall, RED FLAG is overwhelming,” McCarthy said. “It is crushing defeats, hard-earned lessons, and occasionally a sweet victory. It is very stressful, and it is absolutely necessary training for our young aviators.”

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