Personnel from the 354th Fighter Squadron will be participating in the Red Flag exercise at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, until May 23.
The Red Flag exercise is intended to accustom new pilots to combat tactics in simulated high threat environments.
“The objective of Red Flag Alaska is to give the young pilots in the squadron the opportunity to experience their first 10 combat sorties in a training environment,” said Lt. Col. Steven Behmer, 354th Fighter Squadron commander and one of the primary instructor pilots for the Red Flag exercise. “So, when they do get into a combat environment, they have the experience of what it is like before they are getting shot at by real missiles.”
According to Behmer, the 354th FS will be providing eight A-10 Thunderbolts and approximately 130 individuals ranging from maintainers to pilots.
D-M was not originally tasked to participate in the Red Flag exercise according to Maj. Gregory Theriot, 354th FS A-10 pilot and project officer for the exercise.
“There were three Navy units that were tasked to do the exercise,” Theriot said. “They fell out, and we replaced them as the only close air support unit.”
As a close air support unit, there are many dangers than can be encountered from ground forces. It is important for pilots to be able to complete their mission even in the case of equipment failure.
“We expect all of the pilots to be able to operate in a contested degraded environment,” Behmer said. “Meaning we could possibly be flying without GPS, have jammed communications as well as jammed onboard systems, forcing us into a high threat situation, typically in a low-altitude environment.”
The majority of the 354th FS personnel departed from D-M May 6.