122nd Fighter Wing Returns from Red Flag Alaska 13-3

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Darin Hubble
  • Indiana Air National Guard
Members of the 122nd Fighter Wing and ten A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft sent to participate in a ten-day exercise, Red Flag Alaska 13-3, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, returned today.

"Taking part in exercises such as Red Flag Alaska is essential to the preparedness of our airmen," said 122 FW Commander Col. David L. Augustine. "This was a great opportunity to train with allied nations and experience working with live munitions. It simulates the first ten days of combat in a war."

While there the unit took part in exercises containing a total of 60 aircraft and 2,600 personnel, including Air Force, Air National Guard, Navy and Marines as well as forces from Australia and the Republics of South Korea and Japan. States represented from the U.S. military included Alaska, California, Washington, Alabama, Indiana, Louisiana and Oklahoma. Aircraft flown were the 122nd Fighter Wings A-10C Thunderbolt II's, F-15K Slam Eagles, F-15 Eagles, F-16 Fighting Falcon's, F-22 Raptor's, F/A-18 Super Hornet's, EA-18G Growler's, C-130 Hercules, E-3 Sentry's, KC-130 and KC-135 Refueling Aircraft.

Flying with this amount of varying aircraft, aircrew and support teams provides unique opportunities to integrate different forces into a joint coalition training enabling international units to sharpen their combat skills. This kind of dynamic training allows military units to exchange tactics, techniques and procedures and improves interoperability.

Forest fires closed some of the training area, providing creative restrictions. "The mountainous terrain was challenging, but the airspace was close and easily accessible. The Yukon [Military Operating Airspace] is also several times larger than the training areas available to our unit here," said Major Jeremy Stoner, 122nd Fighter Wing Weapons Officer. There was a large force engagement of F16 aggressors and many staged aircraft involved with the exercise. "Being involved provided us the opportunity to learn a great deal about the capabilities of other platforms that we normally don't get a chance to plan and execute missions with," said Stoner.

The 122nd Fighter Wing's Maintenance Group had many challenges while operating in Alaska. The distance that repair parts had to travel across the country, once ordered, made it difficult to respond quickly to maintenance issues. The large distance from the unit's work area, the "Hawg Pin," to where live munitions were loaded made the work difficult due to the additional time that it took for tools and movement of support equipment.

With a healthy mix of fulltime and traditional pilots, maintainers and support elements, the 180 Blacksnakes took advantage of the opportunity to work with live munitions and perform training that is not offered during home station training assemblies. Capt. Matthew Metzger, 122nd Fighter Wing Maintenance Officer said, " this prepared us from a maintenance aspect, it gave us a realistic picture of what it's like to meet a real-world Air Tasking Order in a combat environment so it's not brand new when we really are deployed."