RF-A 23-1 deployed maintenance teams hone skills and keep jets flying

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman David Phaff
  • 354th Fighter Wing / Public Affairs

RED FLAG-Alaska 23-1 is a Pacific Air Forces-sponsored exercise that began on October 6, 2022.

The intent of the exercise is to enhance the combat readiness of U.S. and international forces by providing realistic combat training. This isn't just to enhance the lethality of our pilots but to improve the skills of all Airmen sent to participate in the event.

“It’s a great opportunity for all the bases in the Pacific to gain experience,” said Capt. Marlon Bradley, RF-A 23-1 maintenance commander. “The theory is if pilots can get through 10 combat scenarios, the likelihood of them surviving in actual combat significantly increases.”

The U.S. Air Force’s maintenance Airmen are the backbone of its air power; Being the reason its aircraft are always able and ready to be anywhere in the world at a moment's notice.

The goal is to get maintenance members the experience needed to be able to do their job in any place and any environment. To achieve this, exercise planners choose qualified personnel to attend the exercise who can then share their experiences and lessons learned with their teammates once they return to their home station.

“We typically choose qualified 5- and 7-levels that are cleared medically to deploy,” said Bradley. “All of the Air Force Specialty Codes that we use for daily operations back home are needed for deployment to include maintenance and Logistics Readiness Squadron.”

The home units set up maintenance teams to succeed and be capable of overcoming any obstacle they may face during their time in Alaska.

“We prepare our deployment kits to ensure we have enough tools and spare parts to sustain deployed operations,” said Bradley. “Additionally, we prepare every day at the home station.”

Throughout this exercise, maintainers get to apply and hone their skills while interacting with a new environment and get the chance to interact with personnel assigned to other units from around the world.

“Coming to RED FLAG-Alaska has broadened my capabilities as a crew chief by pushing me to adapt to constant change,” said Senior Airman Adrian Foster, 44th Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chief. “With all the possible difficulties our job can cause, it has definitely allowed me to have a different perspective on possible solutions and has kept me on my toes to come up with them more swiftly and efficiently.”

For many of the maintainers at RF-A 32-1, this iteration is their first chance to experience U.S. Air Force operations outside of their first duty assignment.

"I'm very excited to be here! This is my first temporary duty assignment. It's fun to get to work in a different environment and to be a part of RED FLAG-Alaska," said Airman 1st Class Kyle Daley, 44th Air Maintenance Unit crew chief

The exercise also allows them to work in environments they aren't used to and have new experiences they wouldn’t at their home station.

“Alaska has been an eye opener with its multiple beautiful sceneries of wildlife and nature at its finest,” said Foster. “Once you get past the coldness, you can definitely enjoy the blissfulness it has to offer.”

The job of a maintenance Airman is more than just turning a wrench; it’s about making the U.S. Air Force the most lethal and well-trained in the world.

“Our mission is to generate mission-capable jets in order to successfully produce sorties and allow our pilots to conduct necessary training for real-world instances,” said Foster.