* Rick Rozoff on June 28, 2010
Airmen, allies train for combat at Red Flag Alaska
by Christine Kim
Thursday, June 24, 2010
ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- More than 1,000 airmen are at Alaska's Elmendorf and Eielson Air Force Bases for this month's Red Flag Alaska, an international training exercise.
The training unites forces from all over the world. Airmen from Japan, South Korea, Belgium and Romania joined U.S. forces for the exercise.
"We have very little training opportunities in Belgium, so this is one of the chances we have to take to get this done," said Maj. Kurt Deprez, a member of Belgium's air force.
South Korea, a country already accustomed to working with U.S. troops, is also in Alaska to strengthen the two nations' ties after the sinking of a South Korean warship by a North Korean submarine.
"We have the American Air Force in Korea, and the coalition and the combined working environment is very important," said Lt. Hoon Min Kim, a member of South Korea's air force. "And being able to perform under a combined environment is therefore essential as well."
The Red Flag Alaska missions began nearly two weeks ago, with at least two flights a day.
"There's a lot of (ground-to-air) threats that we simulate out there, some surface-to-air missiles and stuff that's out there in the range," said the exercise's lead planner, U.S. Air Force Maj. William Friar. "We have some air-to-air threats that we have, that the guys up north at Eielson Air Force Base, that they fly as the enemy -- as the Red air."
One training mission is a simulated airdrop conducted by eight C-130 Hercules cargo planes from various nations, with two U.S. Air Force C-130s leading the way.
The aircraft fly over diverse terrain, as low as 300 feet above ground. In the back of the lead plane, two airmen prepare to make the drop. Officials say on a real airdrop a C-130 might deploy anywhere from 20 to 55 troops, in addition to supplies.
A second aircraft trails behind the first, dropping flares to simulate troops, but it's just one piece of the mission. What you can't see are the other players above and below making it safe to conduct the drop.
"Whether it be the fighters who are providing the top cover for us against enemy air threats, the (air-to-surface) attack aircraft that are taking out targets that are trying to hit us from the ground," said aircraft commander Maj. Mark Andrews.
The military says Alaska's large amounts of open airspace make a war scenario more realistic -- which means the C-130s' training flight is as real as it could get.
"Let them know that after coming out and executing this, that we're ready to handle anything that's thrown at us," Andrews said.
Red Flag Alaska is another effort to prepare the nation's troops and allies for battle, and to rise above today's military challenges.
There are a total of four Red Flag Alaska exercises each year. This month's exercise involves joint forces, but the other three involve only U.S. aircraft.
Contact Christine Kim at firstname.lastname@example.org