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Pacific senior enlisted leaders meet for historic Red Flag-Alaska

By Staff Sgt. Curt Beach | 673d Air Base Wing | June 12, 2019

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska —

Red Flag-Alaska 19-2—a Pacific Air Forces-directed exercise that allows U.S. forces to train with coalition partners in a simulated combat environment—is underway at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson through June 22.

Approximately 2,000 personnel are flying, maintaining and supporting more than 85 aircraft from more than a dozen units during this iteration of RF-A. The majority of participating aircraft are based at, and flying from, JBER and Eielson air force bases.

In addition to the U.S., Airmen from the Japan Air Self-Defense Force, Republic of Korea Air Force and Royal Thai Air Force are all working alongside one another, building relationships, fostering communication, and sharing tactics, techniques and procedures.

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright visited JBER during the exercise to engage with Airmen and leaders of all participating countries.

“Any time we come together in a training environment like this, we get really good and realistic training opportunities with our partner nations,” Wright said. “I think opportunities like Red Flag are extremely important for us to get those repetitions in with our allies.

“I encourage all participants to take advantage of these opportunities where you get to work at a tactical level with our Indo-Pacific and our European counterparts because you never know how those relationships might pay off one day.”

Following his own advice, Wright extended invitations to his senior enlisted leader counterparts from throughout the Pacific, marking the first time all four senior enlisted leaders from the U.S., Japan, Republic of Korea and Thailand met together in the same location.

“Instability is on the rise in the Indo-Pacific area of operations, so it’s extremely important for all allied nations in the region to sharpen our skills and strengthen our ability to work together to preserve the peace and stability of this very important region,” said JASDF senior enlisted advisor, Warrant Officer Masahiro Yokota.

This iteration of RF-A, which began June 6, provides joint offensive counter-air, interdiction, close air support and large-force employment training.

“I feel pleased, delighted and honored to have the opportunity to join in Red Flag and the senior leaders activities here at JBER,” said Royal Thai Air Force Flight Sgt. First Class Likhid Deeraksah. “I think it’s a great opportunity to learn about different cultures and the ways of doing things in Korea, Japan and the United States. I’m excited to take some of these ideas back to our work centers in Thailand.”

All RF-A exercises take place over the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex over central Alaska.  The entire airspace is made up of extensive military operations areas, special-use airspace and ranges, for a total airspace of more than 67,000 square miles.

RF-A exercises provide unique opportunities to integrate various forces in realistic threat environments and dates back to 1975, when it was held at Clark Air Base in the Philippines and called exercise Cope Thunder.

RF-A executes the world’s premier tactical joint and coalition air combat employment exercise, designed to replicate the stresses warfighters must face during their first eight to 10 combat sorties. RF-A has the assets, range and support structure to train to joint and combine war fighting doctrine against realistic and robust enemy integrated threat systems, under safe and controlled conditions.

Wright offered a message to RF-A global Airmen about how important their contributions are to the long-term advancement of the nations of the Indo-Pacific region.   

“Come here, work hard, have a good time, and enjoy the fruits of your labor, particularly when it comes to training and relationships. When our Airmen get to work side by side with their counterparts, the long-term impact is that we’re going to be better, and we’ll be ready for any scenario.”

Since its inception, thousands of service members from all U.S. military branches, as well as the armed services of countries from around the globe, have taken part in RF-A.

“This beautiful blue planet will lose its luster if we do not give it our all to protect and preserve it,” Yokota said. “Now, let us bring our strengths together to protect and preserve that beauty.”

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