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144th Fighter Wing Flies and Fights in Red Flag 18-2

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nevada -- Six U.S. Air Force F-15C Eagle fighter jets and several Airmen from the 144th Fighter Wing departed the Fresno Air National Guard Base, California, to participate in Red Flag 18-2 at Nellis AFB, Nevada March 5, 2018.

Red Flag is the Air Force’s premier air-to-air combat training exercise. Red Flag gives pilots the experience of multiple, intensive air combat sorties in the safety of a training environment.

“I have never seen so many aircraft in one confined location,” said 1st Lt. Benjamin Martin, 194th Fighter Squadron pilot. “It is difficult to keep track of that many aircraft at one time. I think that’s what makes red flag different.”

This is the first Red Flag exercise 1st Lt. Martin partook in. Red Flag is one of the largest and most rigorous exercises that the Air Force hosts.

“It is very difficult, a lot is going on in the fog of war,” 1st Lt. Martin said. “I have been learning to get back to the basics and try to take things step-by-step.”

A major part of Red Flag is integration and learning to work as a total force.

“A big part of that is communication that is one thing I am finding out here at Red Flag,” 1st Lt. Martin said. “Every piece is very important. The 144th FW is only a small part of the plan to get the mission done.”

The 144th Maintenance Squadron made sure that the F-15Cs were ready to fly during the exercise.

“The crew chief basically runs the launch with the pilot,” said Tech. Sgt. Patrick Campos, 144th MXS Expeditor. “They go through and do checks, brakes, flight control, engine checks and they make sure the jet is good to go before it takes off.”

The maintenance team overcame many unexpected challenges of getting the planes into the air at the beginning of the exercise.

“It was a little bit rough at first,” Tech. Sgt. Campos said. “We managed to push the sorties out and take care of business. The people have performed flawlessly and we knocked it out of the park.”

The 144th Logistical Readiness Squadron played a major role in making sure the supply chain for parts ran quickly and efficiently.

“Any kind of supply assistance, whether it is from our supply kits or Nellis support center, we take care of that,” said Tech. Sgt. Thomas Winters, 144th LRS supply representative. “Working with different units we have learned to collaborate with them, assist each other whether it is giving them parts or giving us parts to get that mission accomplished.”

The 144th FW took home many lessons learned from Red Flag 18-2.

“I think we have done a really good job training for a large force exercise,” said 1st Lt. Martin. “We are a combat unit that can go and relieve other units around the world.  We have proven that. Red Flag has helped diversify our mission besides just being alert at home station.”

The efforts of the 144th FW and other units participating in Red Flag 18-2 did not go unnoticed.

“Thank you for throwing your hearts into this,” said General Mike Holmes, Air Combat Command commander. “The reports I have seen, showed enthusiastic ownership of the problems we face. Regaining skills that are needed in the real world. The evidence of this is very few sorties missed, and I could not be more proud of you.”