March 24, 2009 (by Amn Jack Sanders) - The Bulldogs recently returned from their extended deployment to Nellis and Holloman AFBs. The squadron members participated in Red Flag while at Nellis, and accomplished valuable training while at Holloman.
The squadron members originally left on temporary duty to Nellis for two and a half weeks of training. "Red Flag simulates the first couple weeks of a conflict or war," said Col. James Hecker, the 3rd Operations Group commander. Because, of recent activity from Mount Redoubt, the squadron's deployment was extended for just over a month.
With the volcano at aviation color code orange at the time, the unit was unable to return to its home station here. The aviation color code orange means a volcano is exhibiting heightened or escalated unrest with increased potential of eruption, which the timeframe for is uncertain, or an eruption is underway with no or minor volcanic-ash emissions.
"When the air warning level elevated to orange due to the volcano, our leadership made a decision for us to stay down in the (contiguous U.S.) out of harm's way," said Capt. Jammie Jamieson, the 525th Fighter Squadron director of operations. "We were bedded down at Nellis, and when the next Red Flag had to roll into town, there was a shortage of ramp space. So, the 49th Wing at Holloman graciously opened their buildings and ramps."
Holloman is the next base to receive the F-22s. While the base currently has five F-22s at its disposal, having the 525thFS members there to practice with and share their knowledge was an excellent training exercise for the 49th Wing members at Holloman.
The F-22 pilots were able to accomplish all of their sorties with the help of the weather and elements, but most importantly their maintainers. "Our maintainers really did a great job keeping the jets available for us the whole time," she said.
While at Red Flag, the 525th members were able to complete an unheard of 350 out of 350 sorties. "During the entire deployment, the 525th flew every scheduled sortie," said Hecker.
Not only were they able to accomplish all of the sorties, but all 14 jets returned home at the same time. The colonel said each aircraft arrived here with-in an hour of each other on March 6.
While the unit was deployed, they accomplished a large number of training sorties. "It was a superb team effort all the way from the project officer, Capt. Jamieson for scheduling everything to the squadron commander, who was the deployed commander for both operations," said Hecker.
The colonel said he was most impressed with the maintainers who were there for the duration. "The tremendous support the maintainers gave to ops was just phenomenal," he said.
The fighter squadron returned in one piece and with a considerable amount of experience under its wing. "A fighter squadron is a deployable fighting unit, and we just did what we would do in war time," said Jamieson.