February 3, 2010 (by SrA Katie Spencer) - The skies of Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., rumble with force from F-16 fighter jets. The stage is set and the pilots fly over the open-range of the fictitious country of Coyote and prepare to destroy the threat.
Lt. Col. David Smith, 93rd FS commander, performs a pre-flight inspection during the two-week long aerial combat training exercise, Red Flag on February 1st, 2010. This is the first time in 16 years Homestead ARB has participated in Red Flag. [USAF photo by TSgt. Bucky Parrish]
The enemy has engaged and attempts to take down the pilot through means of tactical warfare. A switch is pressed and bombs pierce the sky making contact with the target. The airborne "sharks" form up and take to the runway after completing the series of war games.
This is the scene experienced by the pilots from the 93rd Fighter Squadron "Makos
" of Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., during the two-week long aerial combat exercise, Red Flag.
Red Flag is designed to expose pilots those first 10 missions in a combat training environment. Past conflicts have proven that after pilots complete their first 10 missions, their chance of survival increases dramatically. This includes fighting an enemy and live ammunition for bombing missions within the Nevada Test and Training Range.
"This is my first Red Flag and I have experienced tactical situations which are truly critical to fight the war," said Capt. Miriam Krieger, F-16 pilot for the 93rd FS
The 93rd FS along with the 457th FS from Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Forth Worth, Texas, split into two teams for the exercise.
Each team rotates between mission planning one day and flying the next. On flying days, pilots attend pre-flight mission briefs before flying for both day and night operations. After their mission, they regroup and analyze individual performance as well as the team's overall execution of the mission.
"Our days are long and for every hour and a half of flying, there are eight hours of logistics planning," said 1st. Lt. Cliff Lemoine, F-16 pilot for the 93rd FS.
Mission planning is certainly vital to the overall operation of Red Flag, but just as important is the implementation of the mission.
"As strikers, we plan the mission, look at the threats, neutralize the them and protect our F-16s by dropping bombs on targets," Captain Krieger said.
Just as an athlete prepares for a big game or a student studies for final exams, pilots heading to Red Flag have to prepare to ensure their success.
Due to the vast contrast from the flat Florida landscape to the rugged Nevada terrain, the 93rd FS pilots took trips to Georgia and Tennessee a month prior to the exercise to practice flying in a low-level environment. Additionally, they honed their skills through Interdiction drills dropping bombs on targets.
"You can prepare all you want, but having the confidence to fly your jet and carryout the mission is key to the success in a fast-paced environment such as Red Flag," Captain Krieger said.
Homestead ARBs involvement in Red Flag is particularly important to the Air Force Reserve Command.
It has been 16 years since an AFRC
F-16 has touched down at Nellis AFB
for a Red Flag exercise, and not only have the reservists worked hard to prove themselves as a credible organization, but it provides valuable experience for missions in the future.
"We are tactically sound and the interaction with other airframes helps us to see how we fit into the big picture," Lieutenant Lemoine said. "We are learning skills and it pays dividends in the long run and opens doors for more opportunities in the future."