Cactus Flag

DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. — The 355th Fighter Wing held the first large force employment and expeditionary exercise this year from Jan. 11-15 known as Cactus Flag.

Cactus Flag brought a unique spin to the usual exercise routine. The exercise tested the 355th Fighter Wing on a broad scope of expeditionary skills across all units. Normally an exercise, centers around one scenario, location, and threat. Rather than having each individual unit react to a single overarching scenario such as, an active shooter, each unit was given a flexible range to develop personalized settings.

“This new construct is helping the Wing Inspection Team gather a broader evaluation of the 355th Fighter Wing’s readiness and compliance arming all commanders with a more accurate picture of unit effectiveness.” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Mark H. Molineaux, 355th Fighter Wing inspections superintendent.

Everyone plays a role during emergencies, deployments and normal operations. Where one unit excels, another may be weak. Targeted training allows for growth in areas that are usually not flexed.

Every unit are trained on situations that focused on their personal response requirements such exercises like a vehicle rollover, deployed environment, dust storm or active shooter.

“The exercise is definitely a little stressful on the new Airmen; they haven’t done this before,” said Staff Sgt. Matthew Ruggiero, 355th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief. “It is up to the more experienced Airmen to teach how to cope with the stress and how to keep their head up in a faster paced environment.”

Real world events rarely play out in an orderly fashion. Exercising allows Airmen to experience scenarios in a safe environment, expose potential flaws or areas of improvement. Using the information and experience from exercises allows for preparation to face real world events according to Molineaux.

“I’ve personally seen a lot of motivation from the Desert Lightning Team this week,” said Molineaux. “The buy-in and hustle has been nothing short of inspiring.  I’m proud to be a part of the team!”


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