News>A look back: Visiting A-10 unit reflects on RF-A 13-3 experience
An A-10 Thunderbolt II from the 163rd Fighter Squadron, Indiana Air National Guard, Ft. Wayne, Ind., does a show of force maneuver after locating a simulated downed pilot during RED FLAG-Alaska 13-3, Aug. 22, 2013, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Two A-10s defended the pilot's position until a rescue by the 210th Rescue Squadron could be made. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shawn Nickel/Released)
Maj. Michael Cahill, 353rd Combat Training Squadron director of operations, sends location information to friendly forces and gains line of sight during RED FLAG-Alaska 13-3, Aug. 22, 2013, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Cahill was acting as a downed pilot while his position was defended by several friendly aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Senior Airman Shawn Nickel/Released)
An A-10 Thunderbolt II from the 163rd Fighter Squadron, Indiana Air National Guard, Ft. Wayne, Ind., approaches a KC-135 Stratotanker from Kadena Air Base, Japan, for refueling during during RED FLAG-Alaska 13-3, Aug. 21, 2013, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. RF-A enables joint and international units to sharpen their combat skills by flying simulated combat sorties in a realistic threat environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shawn Nickel/Released)
by Staff Sgt. Kirsten Wicker
354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
8/27/2013 - EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- RED FLAG-Alaska 13-3 drew to a close Aug. 23 after two weeks of intense tactical air combat exercises that included more than 60 aircraft and 2,600 personnel.
For an Indiana Air National Guard A-10 Thunderbolt II unit, the 163rd Fighter Squadron, from Ft. Wayne, Ind., RF-A may be over, but the experience and the lessons learned might have proven a vital tool in future mission success.
"RF-A gave us the opportunity to integrate mission sets on a multinational level, and to perform in an environment that recreates the combat situation," said Chief Master Sgt. Kerry Ghent, 163rd FS aircrew flight equipment superintendent. "The ability to practice essential skills in a simulated deployed location, with similar challenges to overcome was an invaluable experience for Airmen."
The A-10 mission during RF-A 13-3 was two-fold: to consistently identify and locate Airmen who are downed, injured or stranded and to provide close air support, protecting the Airman and the rescue helicopter from aerial and ground threats.
"Our job was to find, isolate and protect the individual until rescue helicopters could arrive to physically remove that person from the threat environment," said Maj. Matthew Robins, 163rd FS weapons officer. "We didn't know what the scenario would be from day to day, so we spent many hours planning and executing our strategies in the same way we would in a combat situation."
As with every training or real-world experience, there were challenges to overcome, Robins added.
The 163rd FS maintenance personnel were up to the task, seeking solutions and devising plans for coordinating personnel and making the most use of the smaller hangar space they had to operate in.
"We were sharing the maintenance workspace on the ramp and in the hangars, very similar to how it would be in a deployed location," Ghent said. "It was really great practice and demonstrated our ability to operate in a smaller workspace and still accomplish our mission 100 percent of the time.
"Working with people from different countries where a language barrier existed was challenging, but it's very rewarding when you can exchange methods and tactics with one another," he said.
Robins said for the flyers of the 163rd FS, RF-A was an experience Airmen can't get anywhere else.
"Combat capability is what we train for day in and day out," he said. "RF-A gave us a way to make training as real as possible, so when the real threat exists, we know just what to do and how to do it."