175th Rocks RED FLAG - Alaska 14-3
By Tech. Sgt. Christopher Schepers, 175th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published September 19, 2014
Late August nearly 150 personnel and 10 A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft from the 175th Wing, Maryland Air National Guard, Baltimore, Maryland, returned home from Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The aircraft and personnel were there taking part in Exercise RED FLAG - Alaska 14-3, a simulated environment for aircrews to conduct air combat training. The primary objective of this exercise was full-spectrum, realistic, joint and international integrated aerial combat training.
The wing's participation in this exercise, the first time in 15 years, was the largest deployment the wing has supported since Operation Enduring Freedom in 2012. Led by Lt. Col John Dyer, wing project officer, members from the 175th Operations Group, Maintenance Group, 104th Fighter Squadron and Logistics Readiness Squadron came together to ensure that all aircraft and personnel deployed safely and effectively to Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska.
"It was a massive exercise, so you rely on different squadrons and individual talents to get everyone there and back. When confronted with a challenge of this magnitude, it was impressive to see our people rise to the occasion." said Capt. Steven Montalvo, A-10 pilot assigned to the 104th Fighter Squadron and assistant project officer.
"From planning to deployment to execution to redeployment, all organizations came together to function efficiently and effectively." explained Montalvo.
The 175th Logistics Readiness Squadron successfully developed, processed and launched three groups of nearly 150 personnel and approximately 43 tons of cargo in two days. "We were very fortunate to be able to rely on the experience of Senior Master Sgt. Dave Liberto and Master Sgt. Brandon Mooney, two of the best logistics planners in the Air Force." said Montalvo.
The 175th Maintenance Group prepared and launched 10 primary aircraft with two air spares with all 10 primary aircraft arriving with 100 percent success. "It's a testament to the high level of experience of our maintenance personnel." said Montalvo. "They're always able to produce the jets that are needed for the exercise and have their people ready to deploy at the same time."
While testing their skills in Alaska, the pilots of the 104th Fighter Squadron were challenged in a way that they are not afforded while at home station.
The wing trained with nearly every asset the Air Force has to offer and performed detailed integration of more than 50 aircraft massing fires against the enemy with a 12 hour mission planning period the day prior. More than anything the pilots were ablet to see the way the Air Force fights a war.
"RED FLAG is designed to offer exposure to what the first 10 days of a major war would look like. We don't get that here on our local sorties." explained Montalvo.
The main push for RED FLAG was to capitalize on the different capabilities that the Air Force, Navy, Army and the Marine Corps can bring to the table.
During mission planning pilots received detailed integration and the plan of how they were going to go in and take everyone's specialty, their tactics and what their aircraft is made to do then capitalize on the strengths and cover down on the weaknesses.
Throughout the entirety of the exercise the 175th Operations Group flew 201 sorties including opposed interdiction missions, high threat Close Air Support missions, Forward Air Controller - airborne missions and opposed Combat Search and Rescue missions. In total, the 175th Operations Group flew over 537 hours.
The 175th Maintenance Group launched over 99% of their scheduled RED FLAG sorties, despite limited parts availability, adverse weather conditions and constantly changing live ordnance load plans due to range availability. During the two week exercise, the maintenance group was responsible for loading nearly 150 bombs and over 11,000 rounds of 30 millimeter ammunition that were expended without incident. These numbers include 100% of the allotted exercise munitions and over 75% of the wing's annual weapons allocation.
One of the objectives for the 104th Fighter Squadron at RED FLAG was to expose their Forward Air Controllers - Airborne to a high tempo CAS war with various model design series aircraft and weapon options. The objective of the FAC-A is to be an extension of the Joint Tactical Air Controllers in order to attack targets and to protect friendly forces.
The wing's FAC-A's were able to bring in F-16's, F-18's and other A-10's, control strikes and be the liaison with the ground commander and the fighters.
In the end, the 175th Wing Maryland Air National Guard, with nearly 150 personnel and 10 tried and true A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft were able to effectively train with and utilize the 168,350 sq. kilometers (65,000 sq. miles) Joint Alaska Range Complex to its utmost potential.
During their time at Exercise RED FLAG, Capt. Steven Montalvo earned an aircrew upgrade to mission commander rating as Rescue Mission Commander. He achieved this by executing two dedicated Combat Search and Rescue packages with actual rotary wing recovery vehicles.
The 175th Fighter Wing also had numerous members selected as Superior Performers for Exercise RED FLAG 14-3. Those individuals came from many different organizations and performed a variety of skill sets that were integral in the success that the wing achieved at RED FLAG. Those individuals were Capt. Steven Montalvo, Tech. Sgt. Nathan Lively, Tech. Sgt. Shawn Sullivan, Tech. Sgt. Mike Myrick, Tech. Sgt. William Chang, Senior Airman Maranda Generette, Senior Airman Ryan Oldewurtel, Senior Airman Robert Hedderick, Senior Airman Michael Dison, Senior Airman Jesse Swain, Airman 1st Class Jester Clemente, Airman 1st Class Duy Do and Airman 1st Class Joseph Fisher.
"The success that the 175th Wing had at RED FLAG is a direct reflection of the work ethic and dedication that our members pride themselves in having when confronting any exercise or real world deployment." explained Lt. Col. Paul Johnson, 175th Operations Group commander. "Being able to participate in an exercise like RED FLAG gives our members invaluable knowledge and training that will benefit them greatly during a real-world, wartime tasking."