RF-A 21-2 takes off from Eielson AFB Published June 14, 2021 By Staff Sgt. Zade Vadnais 354th Fighter Wing / Public Affairs EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- The first aircraft operating in support of RED FLAG-Alaska 21-2 took to the skies from the Eielson flightline early this morning. RF-A 21-2 marks the first full-fledged exercise since 2019 following the global COVID-19 pandemic and the U.S. Department of Defense’s subsequent travel restrictions. “COVID-19 has been a factor for this exercise, but it’s not keeping us from training and making it a quality exercise,” said Capt. Christopher Ellsworth, 353rd Combat Training Squadron executive officer and RF-A 21-2 assistant team chief. “We’ve been working really hard here at CTS to ensure that.” RF-A 21-2 is a Pacific Air Forces-sponsored exercise designed to provide realistic training in a simulated combat environment. A series of command-directed field training exercises will provide joint offensive counter-air, interdiction, close air support, and large force employment training. Approximately 1,500 service members are expected to fly, maintain and support more than 100 aircraft from more than 20 units during this iteration of the exercise. Joint and allied forces including personnel assigned to various units at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, and the Koku Jieitai (Japan Air Self-Defense Force) are participating. “Our primary focus is to work on that joint integration, which is how we actually fight,” explained Ellsworth. “We have flying units as well as ground forces and we’re integrating as much as we can with our mission planning, our execution, and mission debriefing.” RF-A 21-2, like all RED FLAG exercises held in Alaska, is taking place in the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, an expansive military operations area comprised of over 77,000 square miles of special-use airspace, ranges, and military operations facilities. The exercise is scheduled to continue until June 25. All participants in RF-A 21-2 are operating under strict COVID-19 mitigation protocols, remaining ready and postured to support the U.S. commitment to security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region despite the COVID-19 pandemic.