May 11, 2017 (by TSgt. Araceli Alarcon) - Approximately 6,000 U.S. military personnel and more than 200 aircraft gathered at different locations around Alaska for Northern Edge 2017.
USAF F-16C block 50 #94-0038 from the 13th FS taxis to the runway during exercise Northern Edge 2017 (NE17) at Eielson AFB on May 6th, 2017. [USAF photo by TSgt. Araceli Alarcon]
NE17 is a training exercise providing effective, flexible and capable joint forces ready for deployment worldwide. The training also enables real-world proficiency in detecting, identifying and tracking of units at sea, air and on land, and response to multiple crises.
During NE17, 13th Fighter Squadron Airmen, stationed at Misawa Air Base, Japan, call Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, home for the next two months.
"NE is a unique exercise because it's a chance for the Department of Defense to test new capabilities of current platforms against new and emerging threats," said Lt. Col. Christopher Moeller, the 13th Fighter Squadron commander. "The F-16 Fighting Falcon not only has the ability to find threats but is the one platform that can detect, pin point their location accurately and attack them."
The training allows for U.S. military personnel to integrate with unfamiliar faces, spot weaknesses and fix them in a rehearsal environment, making for a stronger force as a whole.
"We are bringing together people who have a lot of experience in rocket artillery with the Air Force and the Army to see what we can really do," explained 2nd Lt. Yabia Aldhahraa, a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System Platoon, 5th Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division fire detection officer. "To see the small details in working with one another, making sure we're all on the same language and we are getting those questions answered."
The 13th Aircraft Maintenance Unit sustains the aircraft and weapons systems, ensuring pilots are able to fly allowing them to get the training they need, while learning to overcome any shortages from being away from home station.
"During NE17 we make sure the weapons systems are 100 percent mission capable," said Staff Sgt. Eric Fontanilla, a 13th AMU weapons technician. "If something isn't working, we fix it and make it operational in a timely manner to avoid interrupting training."
The exercise is designed to sharpen participants' tactical combat skills, improve command, control and communication relationships and develop interoperable plans and programs across the joint force.
"NE17 helps identify our strengths and weaknesses and shape our planning, funding and training," said Moeller. "It's important for the 35th Fighter Wing to be here to demonstrate the kinds of capabilities available across the PACAF
area of operations."