April 29, 2011 (by SrA Alexandria Mosness) - Approximately 200 Airmen from the 79th Fighter Squadron "Tigers" returned Friday from a two-week Green Flag exercise at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.
USAF F-16C block 50 #00-0223 from the 79th FS flies over Nevada on April 28th, 2011 during exercise Green Flag West 11-6. [USAF photo by MSgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald]
Approximately 200 Airmen from the 79th Fighter Squadron "Tigers" will return Friday from a two-week Green Flag exercise at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.Green Flag is an exercise designed to prepare both the Army and Air Force for upcoming deployments. The 2.5-week exercise, pilots say, stresses realistic combat training, replicates irregular warfare conditions found in overseas contingency areas of responsibility and gives pilots an unscripted battle exercise and training not available at Shaw.
"For our part, we work on our integration with the Army to ensure we can provide them with the airborne sensor and employment support they need on the ground," said Capt. Patrick McGarry, 79th FS
assistant director of operations. "The actual flying takes place in training airspace over the Army's National Training Center, located near Death Valley, Calif. The NTC features replicas of AOR villages, complete with actors who role-play citizens, government figures and anti-coalition forces."
Not only did the training give different training scenarios not offered at Shaw, but it also allowed crucial training between the pilots and the maintainers, according to McGarry.
The exercise provided a great debrief opportunity by allowing pilots and joint terminal attack controllers to give immediate feedback regarding performance and ways we can improve, the captain said.
"This is the capstone training event for both our pilots and maintainers," McGarry said. "We simulate a deployed operations tempo, which helps maintenance gauge their readiness to operate as a deployed aircraft maintenance unit."
The exercise not only provided for direct feedback between maintainers and pilots, but gave pilots training with Air Force special forces.
"On the pilot side, this exercise provides us an opportunity to work hand in hand with the JTACs that will join us on our future deployment," McGarry said. "These individuals are specifically trained to provide close air support, working hand-in-hand with the Army ground commanders to employ both sensor and employment support from our F-16s. This is an invaluable opportunity to practice communication with the JTACs and employment of precision weapons."
The pilots were not only able to get hours of training with their own squadron, but were also able to train with other aircraft squadrons.
For McGarry, flying with the Rockwell B-1 Lancer bomber squadron at Green Flag was the highlight of the exercise for him, he said. It was a great learning experience to operate with another airframe and practice maximizing both weapons system's capabilities.
Flying in locations other than Shaw forces the entire team to account for different logistical challenges and a more complex flying environment. This creates a situation similar to what forces face in a deployed environment, McGarry explained.
The lessons learned at Nellis will ensure the Tigers are ready for combat flying operations when we're called upon later this year, McGarry said.