NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — This time of year, Alaska is usually blanketed in snow and has temperatures so low that you will want to wear an extra pair of socks.
Usually you will see evergreen that are still full of life, the occasional moose or elk walking down the road and can usually stand in one place and hear absolutely nothing.
At Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, this time of year is where units from around the world attend a Red Flag exercise in a desert environment.
For the 210th Rescue Squadron from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, switching up the training from a colder environment to a warm desert has helped in their training.
“Red Flag has been a good learning experience,” said Staff Sgt. Anthony Guedea, 210th RSQ member. “It’s a really good insight into doing the fast-paced combat search and rescue which is what our job is about without going in country and doing it. It’s awesome to see how the big picture works with fighters and the guys on the ground working together as a whole to make the mission work.”
Coming to Nellis, Guedea has noticed how different the mission back home can be compared to here.
“The mission here is way different than back home, where it is cold and snowy,” Guedea said. “The aircraft handles different in the cold, where it has a ton of power and our focus is on snow and ice to make sure we don’t get iced up. Here it is warmer and we fly at high altitudes, so we really have to manage our fuel and how many people we can pick up.”
While in Alaska, the 210th RSQ is in charge of locating and rescuing both Airmen and civilians from all over the state.
“Back home, we are on a 24/7 search and rescue operation for the state of Alaska, so we always have people ready for that role,” said Senior Master Sgt. Eric Chester, 176th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron helicopter production superintendent. “Here we don’t necessarily have to do that, so it’s actually a little easier then back home.”
At Eielson AFB, Alaska, the state is no stranger to participating in Red Flag exercises as four are annually held there. But for the 210th RQS, their role is a little expanded while at Eielson.
“Most of the time, the Red Flags that we participate in are at Eielson AFB,” said Chester. “The difference from our perspective is that up at Red Flags in Alaska, we are also covering CSAR (combat search and rescue) for the state of Alaska for the 11th Air Force, plus the civil search and rescue for people around the state that might be involved in a crash.”
Chester is participating in his first Red Flag at Nellis and is amazed by the amount of people that make the mission happen and by how successful they are.
“The biggest takeaway is seeing everyone come together from the states and around the world, where it is pretty amazing to see everyone working in unison,” said Chester. “My understanding is that over 3,000 people are participating in the exercise and for as many things to go right as they have are amazing. We are at 100 percent for all of our sorties where there are no negatives to take away.”