Official websites use .mil
Secure .mil websites use HTTPS
By Airman 1st Class Josephine Pepin
28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
The 37th Bomb Squadron from Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, participated in Red Flag 23-2 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, on March 12th-24th, 2023.
Five of 28th Bomb Wing’s B-1B Lancer strategic bombers participated in Red Flag with around 21 other units, coalition partners, and 1800 service members from across the country and around the world.
“Red Flag is the Air Force's premiere combat exercise for combat air forces,” said Lt. Col. Christopher McConnell, the 37th Bomb Squadron Commander. “The whole event is based around taking events, developing scenarios that we have to fly against and plan against, then going against real aircraft, simulated and real threats that are out on the airspace and range and see how well our game plan was developed. Then, we come back and debrief it to get lessons learned.”
Red Flag-Nellis has been held by Nellis AFB multiple times a year since 1975. The exercise was created in part due to a study performed by the U.S. Air Force after the Vietnam War which suggested that pilots and their crews’ survivability in the field substantially increased after their 10th mission.
Red Flag gives pilots, crews, and operators of all experience levels the opportunity to perform these 10 missions in a realistic warfare scenario with minimized risk, sharpening their skills and increasing the lethality of our nation as defenders.
Large force exercises like Red Flag require many levels of personnel to include pilots, aircrews, operators, and maintainers to ensure all the moving parts involved in combat operations run smoothly.
“Red Flag helps us get ready for a wartime effort,” said Staff Sgt. Anthony Phillips, a dedicated crew chief from the 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron that was assigned this mission. “It helps our airmen and operators stay sharp. We learn a lot about each other and how to work together to be the most efficient war machine in the fleet.”
Additionally, what makes Red Flag unique from other exercises is the opportunity to create cohesion and practice integration with other aircraft.
“You don’t really get to see that integration until you come to a big exercise like this where you deploy and you work with different people,” said Captain Kimberly Brannon, a weapons systems operator in the 37th Bomb Squadron. “For me, it’s been really cool to see how our mission planning is important because it’s hard to see the big impact of all the mission planning that you put into your products and your daily job until you get to execute a mission with 30 other jets up in the air.”
The training occurs at Nellis AFB and on the Nevada Test and Training Range, with 12,000 square miles of airspace (an area nearly the size of Switzerland) and 2.9 million acres of land.
For about half of the pilots and aircrews from Ellsworth, this is their first Red Flag experience. The assignment provides many airmen with their first opportunity to see the potential impact of their efforts for the realistic mission.
“It’s a really good reminder that we can’t do our job without the support of each other,” said Brannon. “For example, the B-1 is usually a striker, and we can’t strike our targets if we don’t have people that are supporting us. It's really cool to see how everybody plays a very different role but a very vital role to accomplish the same mission.”