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News | May 15, 2014

Reserve F-22 pilots fill integral role during Red Flag Alaska 14-1

By Capt. Ashley Conner 477th Fighter Group Public Affairs

Red Flag Alaska 14-1 kicked off Monday with a Reserve F-22 pilot leading the entire strike force as an exercise mission commander.

"As mission commander I am responsible for coordinating the efforts of each individual package," said Maj. Shane Bohlman, 302nd Fighter Squadron F-22 pilot. "This includes strikers, air-to-air escort, suppression of enemy defenses, airlift and airdrop, close air support, air-to-air refueling operations, dynamic targeting, and personnel recovery."

With over 1,300 fighter hours in the F-15C and F-22 and 12 Red Flag exercises under his belt in both Nevada and Alaska, Bohlman understands what it takes to coordinate a large force exercise.

"In general there are two common themes with each mission. One, there are many different ways to accomplish a mission and each one may be successful. However, everyone must execute the same plan or else the efforts of each package will cancel, vice providing synergistic effects. Two, no plan survives first contact with the enemy so contingency plans must not only be thorough but also well-communicated," said Bohlman. "Based on my experience, I am able to tailor my briefs and instruction to highlight what is going to be important to each individual flight member."

In addition to Bohlman, the 477th Fighter Group has seven pilots participating in various flying roles alongside their active duty counterparts in the 3rd Wing.

"The 90th and 302nd FS began spin up training for this summer's Red Flags in January," said Maj. Brian Budde, 302nd FS Weapons Officer. "I've participated in approximately 10 Red Flags and I learn something new every time. The opportunities to fly with this many assets over such great range airspace are few and far between. Tactical proficiency in large fore exercises atrophies over time so there are lessons re-learned and new scenarios that require new tactical problem solving."

Red Flag is conducted on the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex with air operations flown out of Eielson and JBER. During this iteration of the exercise U.S. Air Force F-22s, F-15Cs, F-16 aggressors, C-130s, C-17s, A-10s, KC-135s, E-3s along with a Navy EA-6B and F-16s from Singapore will participate.

"Our top priority during Red Flag is to ensure that young pilots are receiving the combat training they need to go to war," said Col. David Piffarerio, 477th Fighter Group deputy commander. "The experience that the Reserve brings to the scenario enhances the training of the less seasoned pilots."

Red Flags were established in the mid 1970's is to give pilots their first 10 combat missions in a simulated combat environment. The first Red Flag Alaska, then called Cope Thunder, was held in 1992.