NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. – The Oregon Air National Guard’s 116th Air Control Squadron (ACS) is participating in Exercise Red Flag, a two-week advanced aerial combat training exercise for military pilots and other flight crew members from the United States and allied countries.
This iteration of the ongoing exercise, Red Flag 22-2, will concentrate on defensive, offensive and counter-air techniques.
Although the members of the 116th spend countless hours training within the home environment, participating in a large-scale exercise like Red Flag provides scenarios to stretch capabilities in a joint setting.
“Compared to at-home training, there are a lot more players involved and we have a chance to support multiple live aircraft versus simulation,” said Senior Airman Caitlyn Conn, a command and control surveillance technician for the 116th ACS.
Watching four computer monitors at once, Command and Control (C2) technicians like Conn identify, watch and track multiple aircraft and ground units based on flight and sensor data. They pass this information on to decision-makers to help them make sense of an often dynamic air battle environment.
The group gathered to plan for multiple scenarios in advance of jets taking off and units mobilizing. During the brief, organizers said they would introduce wild cards to test each member.
“It’s nice being here with people I’ve known for the past three years. It’s a bonding experience with a little stress,” said Conn.
The Red Flag exercise simulates air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons systems, surface-to-air missiles, helicopters and combat search and rescue scenarios.
The 116th ACS is a geographically separated unit under the 142nd Wing and based at Camp Rilea, Oregon.
“In our typical training, we fly out over the ocean airspace, so the training in a place like Nellis is quite different,” said 1st Lt. Wyatt Aichele, air battle manager for the 116th Air Control Squadron, Oregon Air National Guard.
With a new setting, new airframes and equipment come a wider range of challenges that help participants stretch their skills.
Participants, including 14 units with approximately 1,750 personnel from the U.S. Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy and Air National Guard, Royal Saudi Air Force and Republic of Singapore Air Force, focus on combat missions, mission commander upgrades and flag-unique experiences that contribute most to readiness and partnering.