April 20, 2010 (by Capt. Shannon Collins) - Approximately 185 Airmen with the 8th Fighter Wing at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, deployed to Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, to participate in a realistic, 10-day air combat training exercise known as Red Flag-Alaska.
USAF F-16C Block 40s #89-2074 & 80th FS marked jet taxi in at Eielson AFB after flying from Kunsan AB on April 15th, 2010. [USAF photo by Capt. Shannon Collins]
Each Red Flag-Alaska exercise is a multi-service, multi-platform coordinated, combat operations exercise and corresponds to the designed operational capability of the participating units.
Pilots with the 80th Fighter Squadron Headhunters, known as the "Juvats," will train with a variety of platforms to prepare for combat. Participating in exercises like Red Flag gives them training they wouldn't get in the Republic of Korea.
For Capt. Eric Freienmuth, 80th FS
chief of scheduling, this is his third time to Red Flag-Alaska. He's been with the 80th FS for eight months, flying the F-16 for five years and has flown in combat operations in Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"Red Flag-Alaska allows us the opportunity to fly daily with multiple Air Force and joint forces platforms, all practising executing like we would in a real war," he said. "Also, we get to go up against professional aggressors not only in the air but with realistic surface-to-air threat replication, something we don't get in [the Republic of] Korea."
Among the 185 Wolf Pack members deployed, approximately 140 are maintenance professionals from the 8th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 80th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, who will take on the challenge of generating sorties during the 10-day exercise.
The training is imperative, said Senior Master Sgt. Jeff Burke, 8th AMXS deployed first sergeant.
"With the ever evolving political climate, it's imperative to train in multiple environments to ensure our air power is ready to deploy at a moment's notice, anywhere in the world, to sustain both humanitarian and wartime taskings," he said.
On average, more than 700 people and up to 60 aircraft deploy to Eielson, and an additional 500 people and 40 aircraft deploy to Elmendorf Air Force Base, for each Red Flag-Alaska exercise.
Most participating Red Flag-Alaska units arrive a week prior to the actual exercise. During that time, aircrews fly one or two range orientation flights, make physical and mental preparations, hone up on local flying restrictions, receive local safety and survival briefings, and work on developing orientation plans.
During the two-week employment phase of the exercise, aircrews are subjected to every conceivable combat threat. Scenarios are shaped to meet each exercises specific training objectives. All units are involved in the development of exercise training objectives. At the height of the exercise, up to 70 jet fighters can be operating in the same airspace at one time. Typically, Red Flag-Alaska conducts two combat missions each day.