Veterans, first timers benefit from Red Flag exercises
by Staff Sgt. Sarah E. Stegman
Red Flag Public Affairs
9/3/2009 - NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. (AFNS) -- During the Red Flag 09-5 exercise here, young and veteran pilots train in realistic combat scenarios through Sept. 4.
The large-force employment includes various airframes from sister services and allied nations.
The pilots train in a combined an joint atmosphere in a training area spanning more than 15,000 square miles known as the Nevada Test and Training Range.
Ten U.S. units and two coalition countries are represented at this Red Flag exercise. Air Force units include Barksdale Air Force Base, La.; Fairchild AFB, Wash.; Hill AFB, Utah; Hurlburt Field, Fla.; McConnell AFB, Kan.; Tinker AFB, Okla., and the Massachusetts Air National Guard. Sister service units are from Marine Corps air stations from Miramar, Calif., and Yuma, Ariz.; and Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash. Allied units are from Istrana Air Base, Italy; and Al Dafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates.
"Training with an international presence is a great experience to see how we would work together and how their different rules impact what we can do to make the mission successful," said Capt. Warren Carroll, a B-52 Stratofortress pilot from the 20th Bomb Squadron at Barksdale AFB.
A key aspect of Red Flag is learning.
"Our training doesn't begin here at Red Flag," said Lt. Col. Tyrell Chamberlain, the 20th BS commander. "This is our playoffs; we've been practicing and rehearsing to get to this point. Before coming here to integrate with the other forces on this scale, we had exercises at our home station to prepare for the big game. "Now that we're here for the integration, it's game on. We're ready and prepared to work with every unit to train in these scenarios."
Colonel Chamberlain and Captain Carroll agreed that the training received here in a controlled environment cannot be replicated.
"For all of us, whether we're fighters, tankers, bombers or gathering intel, just having this sheer number of people under one roof to train together and fight this war would be unimaginable to do anywhere else," the colonel said.
"I've been a part of other exercises before, but this one is unique in the fact that it's so complex and the scenarios are as close to real combat we can get without actually being there," Captain Carroll added. "How we integrate with a combination of U.S. and coalition forces here is ultimately training us to go to war and to be effective."
Colonel Chamberlain said Red Flag also gives up-and-coming officers an opportunity to get leadership experience in the next level of commanding a squadron.
"While our newest guys are training at the tactical level, this is the perfect opportunity for us to pull a few of the more experienced pilots to shadow leadership to train at the next level," Colonel Chamberlain said. "The leaderships' previous experiences can help guide the younger pilots during the exercise."
As squadron commander, Colonel Chamberlain acts as an adviser to his squadron members.
"I help the young guys talk to the right people at the right time to get the answers they need to make decisions and be successful," he said. "I'm acting as a mentor and guide to let them plan missions given their knowledge. The goal is to have everyone gain tactical excellence and then to go on to gain understanding how each unique piece fits into the larger Air Expeditionary Wing picture."
Captain Carroll, who is participating in Red Flag for the first time, expects to use lessons learned here to help plan future missions and training scenarios.
"Just as our squadron members helped us with passing on their experiences, we will do the same when we go home," he said. "We have a better idea of what to expect while planning, while in the air, and when we come back to adjust."
Ultimately, the concept of training at a Red Flag exercise is to train for combat. Members of the 20th BS are training for their upcoming deployment to Andersen Air Base, Guam, where they will perform another global bomber deterrence mission.
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