EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- The Arctic Fox 20-2 readiness exercise was completed Sept. 18 at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska.
“Arctic Fox is a readiness exercise to evaluate Eielson’s cargo deployment function (CDF) for an F-35A Lightning II operational deployment,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Chad Fleck, the 354th Fighter Wing Inspector General exercises and evaluation chief. “The exercise was developed to identify constraints in cargo buildup and what processes need to be added or changed in order to meet mission requirements associated with an F-35A tasking.”
The exercise focused mainly on the wing’s capability to deploy the cargo associated with a 12-ship F-35A Lightning II tasking.
Fleck said the exercise relied heavily on the 354th Operations Group (OG), 354th Maintenance Group (MXG) and the 354th Logistics Readiness Squadron (LRS). The 354th OG and MXG built cargo to meet their specific F-35A deployment requirements. The 354th LRS supported the groups by providing airflow and cargo timelines and inspection of all cargo prior to aircraft loading.
“The wing has done table-top exercises discussing all aspects of deploying F-35s,” Fleck said. “This exercise put those discussions into action and evaluated each step of the CDF process. This iteration was a first of its kind at Eielson, with many individuals getting their first look at tackling this unique F-35 problem set.”
With this being a new process to Eielson, the wing reached out to other F-35A bases to gain insight.
This exercise is a milestone for Eielson shifting its mindset from a predominately training mission to combat-ready Airmen ready to go at a moment’s notice.
“The Aggressor mission being a training mission means that all movements are planned, giving us ample opportunity to prepare and get the cargo moving. With a combat unit, we may not have much time to prepare and we just have to be ready with little notice,” said Capt. Christina Merritt, 354th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron maintenance operations officer. “The CDF exercise gave us time to stress the machine and see how quickly we could get the unit’s equipment together, packaged and prepared for shipment without weeks or months to prepare.”
The wing will reflect on lessons learned from the exercise and apply what they learned to ensure Eielson’s F-35A fleet will always be ready to go.
“The key behind exercise success is understanding it’s not a pass or fail that determines success. The lessons learned that come from any exercise are the true measure of success, and I think all organizations involved gained valuable experiences that will help in both future exercises and real world events,” Merritt said.