Red Flag Alaska: Planning and organizing Eielson AFB’s multi-national simulated combat training

Updated: Jun. 21, 2021 at 5:28 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Red Flag Alaska exercises are held three to four times a year at Eielson Air Force Base outside of Fairbanks, Alaska. The exercise brings aircraft from various U.S. Air Force Bases as well as international allies to train in Alaska Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex (JPARC). The two week event will see dozens of aircraft and around 1,500 additional personnel from multiple countries come to Eielson Air Force Base to participate in realistic training in a simulated combat environment.

However, the pilots aren’t the only people involved with Red Flag. The large scale exercises involve the entire base. This week we will be doing an in-depth look at the Airmen who make Red Flag Alaska happen.

Long before any airplanes arrive, there is planning to be done. That is the job of the 353rd Combat Training Squadron (CTS).

“There is a lot of facets that go into it. There are many moving parts,” said Lieutenant Colonel Dustin Bennett, Operations Division Chief for the 353rd CTS. “We start six months out. So, back in January we had a meeting with the participants who were going to fly in the flag, and they bring all of their learning objectives that they want to get out of the flag to that initial planning conference.”

Bennett said they work with the different people who are participating as well as the different squadrons on Eielson to make sure everything runs smoothly - everything from what types of training, to where people and planes will go.

“I have to go to a meeting to figure out where the F-16s [fighter jets] are going to be parked to be able to load those aircraft to be able to get them to fly in the exercise,” Bennett said, adding that planning Red Flag Alaska is a year-round mission.

CTS is also in charge of helping debrief the pilots at the end of a training so they can apply what they’ve learned.

Bennett said all of this is to make sure the exercise is seamless. “All of those different moving parts, I coordinate all of that for the participants, and then I make it a smooth process for them to get here to Eielson, and then we execute the flag.”

While the pilots are sometimes seen as the center of Red Flag, Bennett said it helps all of the Airmen. “I do get to see the different facets of all the different airframes. So I get to expand my expertise as well as the expertise for the people that we work with.”

This is the first installment in a five part series on Red Flag Alaska. On Tuesday, we will be learning about the ground crew that helps ensure the aircraft are able to fly.

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