NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — More than 100 Airmen and eight A-10 Thunderbolt IIs from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, arrived at Nellis AFB to participate in Green Flag-West 15-10 from Sept. 13-25.
Green Flag-West is an advanced, realistic, and relevant air-to-surface training exercise, preparing joint and coalition warfighters to meet combatant commander requirements across air, space, and cyberspace. It is a joint exercise administered by the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center and Nellis AFB through the 549th Combat Training Squadron.
“Green Flag-West is the premiere U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps joint close air support integration exercise,” said Capt. Christopher “Geronimo” Johns, 357th Fighter Squadron flight commander and Green Flag-West project officer. “Ground units will utilize Fort Irwin, (California) and the National Training Center to execute a large force-on-force ground battle between two superior forces while integrating rotary and fixed wing assets to destroy ‘enemy’ forces in the scenario.”
During the exercise, eight units from around the country, including the 41st Electronic Combat Squadron and the 357th Fighter Squadron from D-M, will team up to create the scenario. The scenario portrays threats friendly forces can expect to encounter including tanks, artillery, surface-to-air gunfire and missiles, rotary and fixed wing air threats and command and control jamming.
“Units participating gain realistic wartime experience in order to clear some ‘fog and friction’ prior to actually supporting COCOMs in active areas of responsibility,” Johns said. “Ground commanders will take away a better understanding of what air power can do to shape the battle space and attrite enemy forces. JTACs (Joint Terminal Attack Controllers)will experience communication challenges in the field, gain aircraft control experience, and receive instruction from A-10 instructor pilots on CAS (Close Air Support)procedures through face-to-face debriefs after each mission.”
There are 17 pilots from the 357th FS playing a role in Green Flag. Along with them, they brought six upgrade training A-10 pilots from the formal training unit on D-M. Because they are not fully mission qualified, Air Force Instructions prohibit their participation in a Flag exercise, but they can utilize the training complex ranges and resources the instructor pilots are using.
“For us as student pilots, this is our first exposure to a large force exercise,” said 1st Lt. Shannon Smith, 357th Fight Squadron student pilot. “We get use to the scenery (in Arizona) and the type of missions we are flying. Coming here now, we get exposed to different airframes and JTACS, and then we actually get to work with the (E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft) and refuel as part of our mission.”
While here, the students will qualify on different aspects of the aircraft including aerial refueling and weapons.
“They are flying syllabus sorties that provide instruction on low altitude surface attack tactics, flying as a wingman, executing briefed geometry, and employing weapons in close proximity to the ground and friendly personnel to destroy enemy targets while providing mutual support to their flight lead in order to survive against enemy threats,” Johns said.
Although the 357th FS has been participating in Green Flag for multiple years, this is only the third time the unit has brought the upgrade training pilots in an effort to expand their experience before they are assigned to their first operational squadron.
“Flying out of a different location and observing the instructor pilots prepare and debrief GF (Green Flag) sorties exposes the upgrade pilots to additional airmanship tools, understanding of operations away from home station, and they receive a glimpse into the life of an A-10 pilot during ‘deployed’ operations,” Johns said.
By the end of the two-week exercise, the 357th FS instructor and student pilots will leave Nellis AFB with more knowledge and skills then when they came. They will able to use these skills while deployed and during future exercise around the country.