Wolf Pack Airmen depart for RED FLAG-Alaska
KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Approximately 200 Airmen and a dozen F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 8th Fighter Wing departed for RED FLAG-Alaska, a Pacific Air Forces-directed field training exercise, taking place from Aug. 7 to Aug. 22.
Wolf Pack Airmen will actively take part in the PACAF exercise, which is focused on improving the combat readiness of U.S. and international forces. RED FLAG also provides training for units preparing for an air expeditionary force tasking. While the 8th FW fights in place, the exercise helps pilots, support, and maintenance personnel hone the skills demanded by the Wolf Pack's "Fight Tonight" mission.
RED FLAG exercises are also vital to maintaining peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region and conducting the training in Alaska signifies U.S. continued commitment to the Asia-Pacific.
"RED FLAG-Alaska provides Wolf Pack Airmen the unique opportunity for joint and coalition training in a realistic threat environment," said Col. Ken Ekman, 8th FW commander. "Participating in this theater security cooperation engagement helps us refine our combat capabilities as well as strengthen our longstanding partnerships."
Theater security cooperation is one of five PACAF lines of operation and includes all activities PACAF Airmen carry out with allies and partners to build relationships, build allied and partner nation capabilities for self-defense and coalition operations, and provide U.S. forces with peacetime and contingency access.
"Theater security cooperation is a critical role for the Wolf Pack and PACAF," added Ekman. "By building our partner nations' capabilities and interoperability, we bring greater strength to the region across the full range of military operations. As partners in the most successful bilateral alliances in the free world, 8th FW and Republic of Korea Air Force units participating in RED FLAG-Alaska will take our cooperation to new heights."
Throughout the course of its operations, RF-A will enable joint and international units to sharpen their combat skills by flying simulated combat sorties in a realistic threat environment. Additionally, the training allows them to exchange tactics, techniques and procedures while improving interoperability.
"It's a great opportunity to learn and train," said Maj. Dean Laansma, 80th Fighter Squadron assistant director of operations and chalk commander for the departure. "It's some of the best ranges, best flying and best training we get to do, so it's a great opportunity to go out there and practice all the skills that we use and better ourselves."
RF-A is conducted on the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex with air operations flown primarily out of Eielson Air Force Base and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. The JPARC provides a realistic training environment and allows commanders to train for full spectrum engagements, ranging from individual skills to complex, large-scale joint engagements.
"The Juvats (80th FS) will participate with the other coalition aircraft and be part of the strike package that will interdict and take on the red-air assets simulating the enemy out there," added Laansma.
In addition to the flying operations, RF-A provides training for deployed maintenance and support personnel in sustainment of large-force deployed air operations. Some of that training began here at Kunsan in preparation for the exercise, showcasing a team effort by Wolf Pack personnel to prepare those departing.
"I think we as a squadron are very prepared," said Airman 1st Class Samuel Clark, 8th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief. "I think right now we're above a 90 'MC' rate. MC rate means mission capable rate, so pretty much all of our jets are very mission capable. I think we have a very good group of crew chiefs going that'll be able to keep the jets running in the sky."
Readiness is a key focus for the 8th FW and part of that lies in training and preparing Airmen for any contingency they may experience.
"I think it'll be a good training experience for all of us," said Senior Airman Keith Hayes, 8th AMXS crew chief. "I've been a couple of times, so I kind of know what to expect. I'm sure this experience will pose some very interesting challenges to work through."
Despite the challenges that await the 8th FW Airmen, the departing members are excited to showcase their readiness and demonstrate what the Wolf Pack brings to theater security in the Pacific.