Following two weeks of intense training involving more than
84 aircraft and 1,500 Air Force active duty, Reserve, and National
Guard personnel, airmen from Eielson Air Force Base and Elmendorf
Air Force Base in Alaska wrapped up the first Red Flag-Alaska. The
training operation, held April 24 through May 5, had formerly been
known as Cope Thunder.
Pilots, maintainers, weapons loaders, intelligence specialists,
joint terminal attack controllers, pararescuemen and support
personnel were joined by Sailors and Soldiers. Together, they
generated more than 1,600 sorties and airdropped more than 1,000
Soldiers in an exercise designed to get servicemembers combat-ready
for upcoming deployments.
"The plan was for about 1,650 sorties to fly. Ninety-seven-plus
percent of planned sorties flown over a two-week period at two
geographically separated locations in two areas of operation is
pretty impressive," said Capt. Ron Strobach, Red Flag-Alaska
project officer from the 353rd Combat Training Squadron.
The commander of the air expeditionary wing in charge of the
exercise recognized more than 130 top performers from 20 different
Air Force units here and at Elmendorf during the closing
Col. John Dobbins, the Red Flag-Alaska AEW commander, credited
the success to the "amazingly talented active duty, Reserve and Air
National Guard Airmen who melded into a team focused on the
exercises’ training objectives along with a staff that
provided the exercise backdrop and support."
Dobbins thanked the host wings at Eielson and Elmendorf for
"spectacular support" and the airfield infrastructure which he said
was another "key component to success."
"We met the primary objective of making aircrews more capable,
survivable and knowledgeable. Everyone will take away something
different as most valuable to them -- new knowledge, new friends,
better ways of doing things or more understanding of how all the
different parts must work together," Colonel Dobbins said.
"What it has reinforced for me is how well the Air Force and our
sister services do their mission. We can assemble a hodgepodge of
units from around the world, and in less than a week form a
cohesive unit that can generate highly effective airpower," he
The inaugural participation of the 64th Aggressor Squadron from
Nellis AFB, NV was the biggest difference for the exercise, the
colonel said. The squadron's mission is to study and replicate
enemy flight tactics.
"Having the Aggressors here was obviously a big plus to threat
replication," Colonel Dobbins said. "But we still need to determine
if Red Flag-Alaska is meant to be a large-force employment exercise
or a spin-up for air expeditionary force rotations. That decision
will determine where to focus limited resources to improve
facilities and infrastructure, and for units, in planning future
Red Flag training objectives."
From the Aggressor perspective, the exercise was a complete
success, said Col. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, 57th Adversary
Tactics Group commander at Nellis.
"The feedback we received from the participants was that the
addition of the Aggressors brought the training level of this
exercise to a new level," Colonel O’Shaughnessy said. "We
view this as a very positive first step in Aggressor participation
and look forward to the next Red Flag-Alaska when we can
participate with not only our air aggressors, but also our space
and air defense aggressors."
The exercise also allowed the 64th AGRS to build strong
relationships between the Red Flag staffs at Nellis and Alaska that
will ultimately improve the quality of both exercises.
"We learn from each other and build on each of our strengths,"
Colonel O’Shaughnessy said.
For future exercises, Captain Stobach said it is hard to say
what will change.
"(We are) always fine-tuning our process, but each exercise has
its own requirements based on participant goals," he said.
"We’ll continue to tailor the exercise to their goals.
Customizing the exercise to participant needs is one positive
comment that always comes back to the staff after each
(Aero-News salutes Capt. Aaron Wiley, Red Flag-Alaska Public