September 19, 2008 (by SSgt. Trevor Tiernan) - More than 200 Kunsan Airmen left the base early Sept. 14 to participate in Red Flag-Alaska.
"[Red Flag-Alaska] is the closest thing we can get to simulating real combat training," said Capt. Jared Hand, 8th Operations Group. "One of the primary objectives of any Red Flag exercise is to get the less experienced members of that squadron an experience similar to what they might experience in their first five sorties or flights in combat."
Red Flag-Alaska is a series of Pacific Air Forces commander-directed field training exercises for U.S. forces that provides joint offensive counter-air, interdiction, close air support and large force employment training in a simulated combat environment. These exercises are conducted on the Pacific Alaskan Range Complex with air operations flown out of Eielson and Elmendorf Air Force bases in Alaska.
"Red Flag was born at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, and the idea behind [it] was this-- what we need to do is put our air crews into a combat situation, in a controlled training environment, before they actually go to combat," said Col. Bryan "Wolf" Bearden, 8th Fighter Wing commander.
"We learned this lesson out of Vietnam and the success that we've had over the years at Red Flag has been phenomenal."
F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 80th Fighter Squadron and KC-10 Extenders from Travis Air Force Base, Calif., carried the Airmen to Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, where they will base out of and play as lead unit. According to Captain Hand, the Juvats' lead role necessitated the large number of Airmen they deployed with.
"We are taking approximately 220 Airmen from the 8th Fighter Wing," he said. "180 of those are coming from either the ops unit or the AMU [Aircrfaft Maintenance Unit] and an additional approximately 40 Airmen are deploying from the fighter wing itself, from each group within the wing to fill deployed forces staff positions."
Captain Hand said the 40 Airmen on the deployed forces' staff will fill positions to meet the needs of all the forces deployed to the exercise. Additionally the large number of Airmen moving allowed Kunsan's mobility machine to exercise.
"This is an opportunity for Kunsan, which is a remote location that traditionally doesn't deploy, to practice those skills of setting up operations at another base," he said.
Red Flag-Alaska provides the closest thing to real combat training said the Captain.
"From the 80th Fighter Squadron's perspective, it better prepares every fighter pilot to do his or her job," he said. "What we hope Red Flag-Alaska provides for every member of the 80th fighter squadron is as realistic a training environment as we can possibly create in preparation for combat. Every pilot who participates becomes that much better and that much more capable should we be called upon to serve in combat."
"The training space we have over the ranges there in Alaska is incredible" added Colonel Bearden. "Between the air space; the bombing ranges; the electronic warning ranges where we can receive electronic signals simulating surface to air missiles and other threats; and 'Red Air'--F-16s [pilots] that are trained with red-air tactics to present us with typical formations we would see as threats; all that combined makes it the perfect training environment for our pilots."
The Red Flag-Alaska exercise runs for the next two weeks. When the Wolf Pack Airmen return from that intensive training, Colonel Bearden foresees multiple benefits for both the squadrons who deployed and the entire 8th Fighter Wing.
"Once this unit comes back, we're going to have all of our training requirements accomplished and we'll be far better prepared, to fight tonight, here on the peninsula if we have to," he said.