EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- RED FLAG-Alaska (RF-A) 22-1 officially concluded May 13 following a successful two-week training blitz.
RF-A 22-1 was a Pacific Air Forces-directed field training exercise for U.S. and international forces flown under simulated air combat conditions primarily out of Eielson AFB and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. Exercises like RF-A ensure U.S. and allied forces are capable and ready to face the world’s ever-evolving challenges.
“RF-A is all about doing what it takes to prepare to win,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Taylor Ferrell, 18th Operations Group commander at Kadena Air Base, Japan, and RF-A 22-1 deployed forces commander. “There are three primary goals for the exercise; the first is to do spin-up training for our expeditionary forces that are going to prepare to deploy worldwide. The second is to enhance our combined and joint interoperability. The third and most important goal of RF-A is to enhance our combat readiness.”
Realistic combat training is essential to the success of air and space operations. RF-A 22-1 provided unique opportunities to integrate various forces into joint and multinational training from simulated forward operating bases.
“One of our primary focuses this time has been fifth-generation integration,” explained U.S. Air Force Capt. Will Remien, 353rd Combat Training Squadron weapons flight commander and RF-A 22-1 team chief. “Integration with our joint partners and our international partners is always a priority. A big part of this exercise was also coordination between ground and air forces.”
Approximately 2,220 service members from three nations operated, maintained and supported more than 90 aircraft from over 25 units during this iteration of the exercise. Participants included a Royal Air Force C-130 Hercules, Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 Hornets, U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning IIs, a U.S. Air Force KC-46A Pegasus assigned to the 22nd Air Refueling Wing at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas, Eielson’s 18th Aggressor Squadron, and various aircraft assigned to units within the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command area of responsibility.
“We’ve got forces from the U.S. and all over the Pacific theater that have made it to this exercise, that have moved their people and their equipment to a very valuable training venue,” explained Ferrell. “Once everyone gets here, it's all about figuring out how to integrate and work together. We don't all speak the same language as it relates to employment, and our tactics are very different so that can be a challenge. We’ve really been able to overcome a lot of those challenges these past two weeks and now it feels like we’re one fighting force.”
Overcoming challenges, integrating with partners, and developing and sharing tactics, techniques and procedures to better work together in future contingencies are at the core of RF-A exercises. The training can be hectic and stressful, but participants leave Alaska more ready and more lethal than when they arrived.
“If you ask every unit that came, they would tell you that they're now better prepared to fight and win,” said Ferrell. “There’s no other training venue like this in the world. The training in the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex is invaluable; the airspace is very expansive and has a tremendous amount of capabilities to provide high end training. Each unit that had the opportunity to participate there has walked away with a higher state of readiness.”
“I commend all the participants and deployed forces for their perseverance and making this exercise a tremendous success,” said Ferrell.