Red Flag Alaska: Eielson airmen stay grounded to keep planes flying

From maintainers, to air traffic controllers, the ground crew is essential in keeping aircraft flying during red flag and throughout the year
Published: Jun. 23, 2021 at 2:59 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The Red Flag Alaska training exercise allows pilots from the U.S. Air Force and allied nations to train in simulated combat situations. The training brings dozens of additional aircraft and over 1,000 airmen to the base to participate in the training. However, none of it would be possible without the ground crew.

“To get aircraft airborne and to the range so they can go do the job, there is a multitude of different agencies and jobs here on the airfield and off of the airfield to where we all have to work together to make sure those aircraft get out of here on time, safely and efficiently,” said Air Traffic Controller Senior Airman Mark Landers.

Maintainers, refuelers, air traffic controllers, field operations, and many others make up the ground crew at Eielson Air Force Base.

Production Superintendent of the 18th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, Master Sergeant Brandon Rhodes says maintainers work to keep the aggressors flying, “Make sure that the F-16s here, or whatever allied forces we have coming to perform during the Red Flag, have the aggressor aircraft with them. So essentially Red Flag wouldn’t exists without the aggressors being here.”

The aggressors wouldn’t fly without the maintainers to keep them in the air. Airman First Class Tomas Frances works on the weapons on the F-16′s, he said they are always busy but during Red Flag, they have even more work.

“We are constantly having to fly during the day, sometimes we are doing not only two goes, three goes and we are having multiple jets going up so we are constantly moving, getting these jets ready to go,” Frances said.

Having Red Flag at the base gives all the ground crew a chance to improve their skills.

“I am able to hone my abilities of training, exercise my skills of training younger airmen below me,” said F-16 Integrated Avionics Specialist Staff Sergeant Ryan Hoke.

Rhodes said that the extra work and aircraft give them a chance to prove their skills, “Red Flags are typically a showcase of it, were to get set in a real world situation.” This allows them to be ready to fight in an actual combat situation as efficiently as possible.

This is the second installment in our five part series on Red Flag Alaska. The first story looked at the Combat Training Squadron that plans and designs Red Flag. Next we will learn about the Range Squadron that gives pilots a place to fight.

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