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Behind the scenes of RF-A

Behind the scenes of RF-A

Republic of Korea Air Force, U.S. Air Force and Japan Air Self-Defense Force members begin mission planning during RED FLAG-Alaska (RF-A) 17-2, June 12, 2017, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. RF-A 18-2, the second exercise for calendar year 18, is scheduled for June 7-22, 2018, and is still in the planning stages. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Sadie Colbert)

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska --

Eielson Air Force Base hosts several RED FLAG-Alaska exercises every year. For the 2018 calendar year, there are four RF-As in the works. It takes a lot of time, energy and dedication from various Airmen and civilians in the 353rd Combat Training Squadron and from around base to make these exercises a success.

“The planning starts approximately 10-11 months out for each different exercise,” said Capt. Eric Fenske, a 353rd CTS range duty officer and the RF-A 18-2 team chief. “Typically the first planning meeting happens about eight months out from the event. They happen at four concurrent times with the four different exercises we have scheduled this year.”

Each unit interested in participating in the exercise generally sends a small planning team to the Middle Planning Conference. The team is usually comprised of an operations, maintenance, logistics and an intelligence or weapons tactics officer.

One of the unique features of RF-A is that each exercise is catered to the participating units.

“We are laying the foundation for a successful RF-A this summer,” said Col. David Mineau, the 354th Fighter Wing commander, while speaking to the attendees of the MPC. “What is great about RF-A is we shape the exercise to what each individual unit and nation wants to practice. We insert objectives and specific training opportunities based on the input you give us during these meetings.”

During the MPC, various tasks are discussed. With an exercise this large in scale, Eielson relies on augmentees from the participating units to support the influx of personnel.

Besides manning, scenario development is also discussed. They take what each unit wants to accomplish and what Eielson is capable of offering, then mesh them all together to design each scenario.

“There are 10 flying days with two periods of flying each day, except on the final Friday when they only do a morning scenario,” said Fenske. “That’s 19 separate scenarios we have to develop. Each player discusses their capabilities and what their goals are for their time here, and we try to incorporate everyone’s learning objectives into the separate, yet cohesive, scenarios.”

After the MPC, the RF-A planning team takes a bit of a breather and waits for the inevitable changes to take their course.

“After all the changes from each unit roll in, we start the finalization process,” said Fenske. “About four months before the exercise is when we really work to get every scenario finalized and scheduled.”

With larger exercises like RF-A, it can be difficult to arrange the requested scenarios. However the men and women of the 353rd CTS work closely with each unit to know and understand their goals and objectives for each exercise. Ultimately, establishing that relationship to open communication is the key to our mission success and joint-partnership with our foreign allies.