Members of the 357th Fighter Squadron were given a unique opportunity to participate in Green Flag-West 15-03 during these past two weeks.
Green Flag-West 15-03 is a joint close-air support exercise with the U.S. Army taking place at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif.
“This is a really unique opportunity for us because we are a training unit, and do not typically go on TDYs for exercises,” said Capt. Christopher Anthony, 357th FS A-10C Thunderbolt II instructor pilot.
The 357th currently trains pilots to fly the A-10C Thunderbolt II, as well as plan, coordinate, execute, and control day and night close-air support, battlefield surveillance, and reconnaissance in support of friendly ground forces.
A total of 133 personnel left for the two week temporary duty assignment, to include members from the 357th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, 19 instructor pilots from the 357th FS and 355th Operational Support Squadron as well as six A-10 student pilots.
“The Green Flag-West exercise is about the joint interoperability between the U.S. Army and the Air Force,” Anthony said. “We provided close-air support to the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division from Fort Wainwright, Alaska at the National Training Center.”
The NTC is located at Ft. Irwin Calif., where realistic, unified land operations with unified action partners are being conducted to prepare Brigade Combat Teams and other units for combat while taking care of soldiers, civilians, and family members.
“This was great training for the instructor pilots because it gets us out of our daily routine,” Anthony said. “Instead of building a tactical scenario for the students where we script everything, we didn’t know what to expect until we flew out and coordinated with the joint terminal attack controllers on the ground, which is more realistic.”
Not only did the 357th support the Army operations at the NTC, but they also flew four sorties in support of the U.S. Navy off the coast of San Diego. The Air Operations in Maritime Surface Warfare operation were a part of the Green Flag West exercise.
“Our pilots were able to work with our U.S. Navy assets to defend a navy surface vessel from a swarm of boats operated by the simulated opposing forces,” Anthony said. “Our pilots were able to develop tactics and hone their skills in a new mission set for the A-10 Warthog.”
The student pilots from class 15 ABD of the A-10C Pilot Initial Qualification Course were also given the opportunity to go TDY to train at Leach Lake at Ft. Irwin.
“We were able to take the students out of their comfort zone of Tucson and put them in a new environment,” Anthony said. “They had to learn a completely new set of local area procedures as well as airspace for a two week period.”
While flying their syllabus sorties, the students were able to work with JTACs for the first time to seek out targets on the ground in accordance with the close-air support joint publication.
“The TDY was an awesome opportunity,” said 1st Lt. Nikki Yogi,355 Training Squadron A-10C Thunderbolt II student pilot. “It was pretty cool to hear the JTACs calling out ‘good hit’ after firing the gun at a tank on the range.”
Anthony believes that this TDY will help these students once they reach their operational units.
“Now that these students have already gone TDY and know what to expect,” Anthony said. “They will be able to help their operational unit get things set up at the TDY location, know what to expect for TDY operations, as well as know what to do to help the squadron get home.”
The 357th AMU also played a huge role in the TDY. From the start of the exercise on Jan 20 to the end of flying operations Feb. 1, the 357th FS flew 118 of 118 scheduled sorties because of the tireless efforts of the crew chiefs and maintenance support personnel.
“They worked incredibly hard to support our 11 days of flying operations,” Anthony said. “During the second week of operations, personnel were showing up at 0100 to accept and load the daily munitions delivery on the jets for the 0730 launch.”
After being given the chance to participate in the Green Flag-West 15-03 exercise, Anthony hopes to be able to continue to participate in upcoming classes.
“It was great training for our students and our instructor pilots,” Anthony said. “If we were asked to do it again, we would look forward to the opportunity.”