By Tech. Sgt. Tyrell Heaton, 113 Wing Public Affairs, DC ANG
/ Published May 26, 2011
NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. - Eighty-seven members of the 113th Wing, in addition to pilots and staff from the 121st Fighter Squadron, participated in Green Flag West May 13 to 27.
Conducted by the 549th Combat Training Squadron at Nellis AFB and the 12th Combat Training Squadron at Fort Irwin; Calif., Green Flag West provides a realistic close-air support training environment for Airmen and Soldiers preparing to deploy in support of combat operations.
Members of the Wing participated in unscripted battle exercises which provided training on a scale not available at or near Joint Base Andrews. Green Flag West replicates irregular warfare conditions typically found in Southwest Asia.
Green Flag, in essence, is air to ground support. When ground forces need air support they call the Air Force for quick, precise assistance.
"We're really here to support the Army in Afghanistan," said Staff Sgt. Justin Foulsham, Crew Chief; 113 AMXS. "[During Green Flag] we're able to shoot live munitions at different time frames at different locations to really simulate conditions our pilots will face in Afghanistan."
Aircrews, working closely with Air Force joint terminal attack controllers embedded with the 3rd Infantry Division, fly close air support, aerial reconnaissance and other missions to support roughly 6,000 Soldiers and 400 armored and support vehicles operating in a 1,000-square-mile combat environment in eastern California.
The opportunity to integrate with the Army, both from an operations side and our maintenance side, replicates what we experience when we go in theater," said Maj. Chris Sheppard, Pilot; 121 FS. "The whole set-up from the infrastructure at Green Flag, the force structure, the scenarios, to actually working with the Soldiers on the ground out in the western ranges is invaluable."
"We were able to work with the Army in an Armed Reconnaissance / Armed Escort Mission, a non-traditional intelligence surveillance reconnaissance mission and even had the opportunity to support some troops in contact scenarios," said Major Sheppard.
"This is a huge training event for the Army, it's going to be advantageous for them to get the opportunity to see what the Air Force can provide for them, SFC Randall R. Smith, Ground Liaison Officer; 549th Combat Training Squadron. They are typically concerned with their organic assets as those are the things that are most responsive, but it's important for them to understand, especially in theater, the types and amount of firepower the Air Force can provide.
"For instance, it's tremendously valuable to the 39th Infantry out of Arkansas when their troops are in contact or they need assistance, the Air Force is definitely there to help them out and this is the premier training event."
"[This helps the 121st Pilots] see how the Army does business, if the pilots have never deployed before they have never seen Army formations, they have never seen a corridor search from 15,000 feet this would be an opportunity to give them the chance to interact with the Army, get used to the Army verbiage; it will definitely get them prepared for what they are going to encounter when they deploy to theater," Sergeant Smith added.
"This exercise is good for AEF (Air Expeditionary Force) training," said Lt. Col Mark Piper, Pilot; 121 FS. "We fire live weapons which is impossible to do on the East Coast; this is real-world training with real-time feedback."
The exercise flight path included areas within the Las Vegas valley, to and from Nellis AFB, the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. as well the Mojave Desert near Fort Irwin in both Inyo and San Bernardino Counties in California.
Weapons and munitions crew are regularly around live rounds at home-station, although the exercises at Green Flag West exposed them to munitions that are currently being used in Afghanistan. In addition to weapons in which they are normally are laden, they had MK82 and MK 84 bombs, that weigh 500 and 2000 pounds respectively.
"We inspect the munitions we receive, load them on the aircraft, function check the weapon systems as well as arm and de-arm during pre- and post-flight," said Tech Sgt. Matthew Duke Clemens, Weapons Loader; 113 Wing.
"This is my first time around live bombs," said Senior Airman Timothy Boyd, Crew Chief; 113 AMXS. "Being here opens your eyes more... doing your job in a live situation helps prepare us for safety, rules, and emergency procedures," he added.
"Both the pilots and crew are briefed prior to and after each mission," said Tech Sgt. Brandon Broocks, Crew Chief; 113 AMXS. "We're doing a 6 turn 6 ... Each aircraft is flying twice a day for 10 days so we're flying 120 sorties in total; each sortie is anywhere from 1.5 to 2.5 hours. "It is more aggressive in theater as we'll have more personnel and will also be able to fill in with other aircraft if we're down due to maintenance," said Sergeant Broocks.
"We are at a 100 percent on missions so that shows how our exercise has gone so far," said Senior Master Sgt. Willis, 113 AMXS.
There are Combat Weather Teams in place to support AEF (Air Expeditionary Force) missions; however, the 121st brought their own staff for the training experience.
"The conditions here at Nellis are comparable to those in some AEF locations," said Staff Sgt. Roy Evans, Weather Flight; 121 FS. "There is scarce data to work with in remote areas and the unpredictable weather coming off the mountains with the desert-dry heat and gusty winds is similar to what we would experience in Afghanistan."
The 121 FS Aircrew Flight Equipment supported the pilots and performed some additional duties while at Green Flag West.
"In addition to maintaining gear, pre- and post-flight checks and scheduled inspections, we transported pilots to and from the flight-line," said Tech Sgt. Sheron Mason, Aircrew Flight Equipment; 121 FS. "Intel Officers are doing Fam [Familiarization] rides so we assist them with the equipment, although we were able to complete a lot of their training at Andrews before we left."
The 113th brought their own POL (Petroleum, Oil and Lubrication) support and they were able to go above and beyond their normal duties to assist Nellis AFB with other missions.
Units from the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and allied nations regularly participate in Green Flag West, which is held throughout the year.
Joining the F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 121st Fighter Squadron included a KC-10 Extender from the 60th Air Mobility Wing, Travis AFB, Calif.; the 238th Air Support Operations Squadron, Mississippi; and the Civil Air Patrol at the North Las Vegas Airport.
"This exercise does a lot for camaraderie," said Tech Sgt. Desiree Jones, Communications Flight; 113 Wing. "Usually I see everyone once a month but being around them daily you get to learn a lot about who everyone is," she added.