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Air Combat Training: Red Flag-Alaska 15-2

Tech. Sgt. Mark Fox stands face-to-face with an F-16 Fighting Falcon as maintenance personnel make last-minute checks before take off at Eielson Air Force Base, Tuesday, May 12, 2015 during Red Flag-Alaska 15-2. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Capt. Nathan Wallin)

Tech. Sgt. Mark Fox stands face-to-face with an F-16 Fighting Falcon as maintenance personnel make last-minute checks before take off at Eielson Air Force Base, Tuesday, May 12, 2015 during Red Flag-Alaska 15-2. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Capt. Nathan Wallin)

A DC Air National Guard F-16 Fighting Falcon waits, ready for flight at Eielson Air Force Base, Tuesday, May 12, 2015 during Red Flag-Alaska 15-2. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Capt. Nathan Wallin)

A DC Air National Guard F-16 Fighting Falcon waits, ready for flight at Eielson Air Force Base, Tuesday, May 12, 2015 during Red Flag-Alaska 15-2. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Capt. Nathan Wallin)

Fighter jets of the 113th Wing, DC Air National Guard leave a circular pattern of contrails in the sky over the flight line Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska during “Red Flag-Alaska 15-2.”
Red Flag-Alaska is an air combat training exercise between Air National Guard, Active Duty and international military personnel.  During the exercise, aviators at Red Flag hone their close air support, interdiction and counter-air skills in simulated combat scenarios.
 (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Capt. Nathan Wallin)

Fighter jets of the 113th Wing, DC Air National Guard leave a circular pattern of contrails in the sky over the flight line Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska during “Red Flag-Alaska 15-2.” Red Flag-Alaska is an air combat training exercise between Air National Guard, Active Duty and international military personnel. During the exercise, aviators at Red Flag hone their close air support, interdiction and counter-air skills in simulated combat scenarios. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Capt. Nathan Wallin)

Staff Sgt. Burney Williams, a Crew Chief in 113th Wing’s Maintenance Squadron, stands ready on the flight line at Eielson Air Force Base, Tuesday, May 12, 2015 during Red Flag-Alaska 15-2.  (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Capt. Nathan Wallin)

Staff Sgt. Burney Williams, a Crew Chief in 113th Wing’s Maintenance Squadron, stands ready on the flight line at Eielson Air Force Base, Tuesday, May 12, 2015 during Red Flag-Alaska 15-2. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Capt. Nathan Wallin)

Airman 1st Class Ashley Almeida and Master Sgt. Kennard Hughes outside “The Thunderdome” at Eielson Air Force Base, Wednesday, May 14, 2015 during Red Flag-Alaska 15-2. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Capt. Nathan Wallin)

Airman 1st Class Ashley Almeida and Master Sgt. Kennard Hughes outside “The Thunderdome” at Eielson Air Force Base, Wednesday, May 14, 2015 during Red Flag-Alaska 15-2. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Capt. Nathan Wallin)

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- "It's a lot of work, but it's a lot of reward as well."

That's how Col. Mark Valentine described Red Flag-Alaska, a two-week combat air power exercise hosted by Eielson Air Force Base and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. Valentine, the 113th Wing operations group commander, is deployed here with several others from the D.C. Air National Guard to participate in the joint exercise.

"I like the tempo," said Staff Sgt. Burney Williams, a crew chief with the 113th Maintenance Group. "We fly more jets and the timeframe is quicker."

Inaugurated in 1976 and originally named "Cope Thunder," RF-A takes place in the Joint Pacific Range Complex, an airspace military flight training range totaling 67,000 square miles, a portion of land larger than the state of Florida.

RF-A training mimics a variety of air combat scenarios and puts pilots into stressful and realistic conditions involving a range of combat threats.

"They're robust scenarios with hundreds of airplanes involved," said Valentine.

Studies show that a pilot's first 10 combat missions are the most perilous. The stated goal of RF-A is to "provide each aircrew with these first vital missions, increasing their chances of survival in combat.

113th Wing  pilot, Maj. Wyck Furcron, points to the realism of the RF-A training.

"It's the most realistic thing you're going to see in relation to actual combat," he said. "You experience things (at RF-A) you're not ever going to experience until you get to actual combat."

RF-A is a Total Force and international endeavor. Pairing Air National Guardsmen with Air Force Reservists, the active duty Air Force and Canadian aviators, participants have the opportunity to learn from one another, share solutions, tactics, techniques, and procedures.

Furcron highlights the importance of training with other military personnel.

"You get to see how other units run their tactics in relation to yours," he said. "It's probably the most beneficial thing we do in the exercise."

"It's important that the 113th participates in Red Flag because we're a combat unit and that's what Red Flag is designed to do," said Valentine.