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Cope Thunder wraps in Alaska

by 1st Lt. Teresa Sullivan
354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

5/5/2005 - EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska (AFPN)  -- Cope Thunder participants used Eielson’s 62,000 square miles of training airspace and met their objective: to fly, fight and win during Pacific Air Force’s premier combat airpower exercise that ends May 6.

The two-week exercise took place here and Elmendorf AFB, Alaska.

“All Cope Thunder units had one collective mission objective I wanted them to accomplish: to take advantage of the great Pacific Alaska Range Complex to get better at what we do for a living -- fly, fight and win,” said Col. Michael Boera, 35th Air Expeditionary Wing commander. “I didn’t care whether they were here as an aviator, maintainer or a member of the expeditionary combat support team, the mission was to learn while here and get better at what we do.”

Cope Thunder, PACAF’s largest air combat training exercise, involved about 1,000 active-duty and Air National Guard Airmen and 50 aircraft.

Missions flown during the exercise prepares pilots and support crews for combat in a realistic environment, officials said. The exercise enhanced tactical training and focused on integrating and conducting air and space superiority, precision engagement and close-air support.

Participating forces were divided into two opposing teams, while they flew air-to-air and air-to-ground combat and combat support missions using a variety of aircraft against a realistic set of threats.

“Having each of the specific Cope Thunder 05-01 units here allowed for integrated training unlike what most of the units get at their home station. Of particular importance is the ability to have face-to-face meetings during the planning, briefing and debriefing processes,” Colonel Boera said.

Exercise participants should leave here more prepared for real-world deployments, said Capt. Ron Strobach, project officer for the exercise.

“All the prior preparation and coordination allowed us to execute as if we were really going to war,” Captain Strobach said. “To bring in all the weapons systems and conduct the mission was valuable training for all participants.”

When it came to training, the exercise was “all good,” Colonel Boera said.

“Looking at the aircrew’s faces as they came in the door from missions is always a high for me,” he said. “To see our young aviators wide-eyed from their experience in the air means we’re accomplishing our mission, and we’re doing our job to train tomorrow’s warriors. There were so many first-time mission and package commanders getting their first taste of (large-force employment) within a major exercise.”

Participants were: the 35th Fighter Wing and 13th FS F-16 Fighting Falcons from Misawa AB, Japan; 355th FS A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, 63rd FS F-16s from Luke AFB, Ariz.; 90th FS F-15E Strike Eagles from Elmendorf AFB, Alaska; 963rd Airborne Air Control Squadron E-3 Sentrys from Tinker AFB, Okla.; 210th Rescue Squadron HH-60 Pave Hawks from Kulis Air National Guard Base, Alaska; 168th Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 Stratotankers from Eielson; 121st ARS KC-135s from the Ohio ANG and the 25th Air Support Operations Squadron joint terminal attack controllers from Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

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