NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. --
The city of Las Vegas set the backdrop for a recent training exercise for the Airmen of the 148th Fighter Wing at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. This desert background is a drastic climate change from the artic tundra that more than 180 northern Minnesota based Air National Guard members are accustomed to. This exercise called ‘Red Flag’, included pilots, maintenance personnel, and other support groups from around the wing.
The exercise began on Jan. 24, and like the ‘city that never sleeps’, had an around-the-clock operational tempo. Some of the Air Guard members had a unique opportunity to partner with units from across the joint force, including the U.S. Air Force, Navy, Marines and Space Force.
“The Red Flag exercise gives our air crews the opportunity to experience realistic combat scenarios in a controlled training environment, which increases their ability to complete their mission and come home safely,” said 2nd Lt. Tyler Nelson, 148th Maintenance Squadron Officer-In-Charge of night shift personnel during the exercise. “In addition to this, it gives our maintenance personnel and other ground personnel the opportunity to experience that same high intensity tactical environment.”
The group worked long hours to ensure the wing’s F-16CM fighting falcons were capable and mission ready to participate in an exercise designed to provide aircrews with multiple, intensive air combat sorties which improves squadron and wing readiness.
“We are able to take the data from our execution, both from on the ground and in the air, and see how prepared we are for a deployment,” said Lt. Col. Grant Brown, 179th Fighter Squadron Commander.
The three-week exercise gave the group an opportunity to train and work much differently than a typical drill weekend. The exercise is focused on increasing confidence under fire for pilots, integrated leaders and providing a warfighter culture.
“It’s important we attend Red flag because it exposes us to our counterparts, puts us in a realistic environment, where we are actually working on aircraft that are flying in a stressed environment,” said Lt. Col. Ryan Kaspari, 148th Maintenance Squadron Commander. “It gives us that operational tempo you get when you’re a in a war-time environment. We are always ready, so when we do deploy – we don’t have to worry about trying to get ready.”
The exercise included 2,900 personnel from the U.S. Air Force, Navy, Marines, Space Force, Air Force Reserve, the Royal Air Force (UK) and Royal Australian Air Force with more than 100 aircraft, to include F-22s, F-35s, EA-18G, B-2, B-52s, F-16s and many more. For some of the younger Airmen, this was their first time seeing so many different airframes in a central location.
“I thought it was interesting when I got here the first day and looked down the flight line and saw just how many different types of aircraft and jets that are here. I like working on the F-16, but some of the other aircraft are pretty neat,” said Airman Hallee Ballavance, 148th F-16 Crew Chief.
The exercise ran from Jan. 24 – Feb. 11, 2022 and the group has returned home, well-trained, and ready to complete their mission for the state or country at a moment’s notice.