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By Airman 1st Class Yendi Borjas
28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Wrenches turning, engines running and scattered voices fill the air on the flightline. Constant movement and an effort-by-all ensure the B-1B Lancers, assigned to the 34th Bomb Squadron, are mission-ready at Red Flag-Nellis 23-3.
Red Flag is an exercise held at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. and takes place at the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR). The purpose of the training is to simulate real world combat operations based off of data gathered during the Vietnam War. Vietnam proved that if a pilot could survive 10 combat missions, the likelihood of surviving the remainder of the war increased drastically. This is the baseline for what pilots participating in Red Flag experience and what the exercise is intended to accomplish.
The 34th Bomb Squadron’s ability to conduct Red Flag’s high tempo combat training sorties, both day and night, come from the hard work and dedication of ‘Raider’ maintainers. Both maintenance Leadership and Airmen work tirelessly to Red Flag to ensure the jets are mission capable at any time.
“Depending on the condition of the jets, maintainers are expected to work around the clock five to seven days a week,” said Capt. John Jordan, 34th Aircraft Maintenance Unit officer in charge. “There are currently a few jets that are keeping us engaged every day for 24 hours a day.”
In preparation for the exercise, the 28th Maintenance Squadron and 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron leadership analyzed historical exercise data to identify which aircraft systems were expected to experience difficulties and to ensure replacement parts were ready if needed.
Senior Airman Ryan Alderete, 28 AMXS crew chief, stated “Maintenance's job is to fix the jets and prepare them to fly, so the expectation is to be safe and follow technical data but also move with a purpose. Working with aircrew and other experts from the [28th] Operations Support Squadron are also essential in providing safe and reliable aircraft.”
It’s through constant communication and feedback that maintenance issues are identified and resolved.
“Every day, after every flight, we have a discussion with our Ops counterparts about their pilot reported discrepancies,” said Jordan. “This helps us gain a better understanding of the difficulties they are having and ensures we correct those in the best way possible.”
The summer temperatures of Nellis AFB, combined with the exercise tempo, provide a training environment for maintenance that closely resembles a deployed-combat environment.
“Working away from home-station helps us gather a better understanding of what we need while we are away, as well as introducing us to what it is like to work in austere environments,” Jordan mentioned.
Although work back at Ellsworth may be similar, the rate in which the jets have to be turned is significantly different.
“The biggest difference while being at Red Flag would have to be the faster pace,” said Alderete. “We are doing a lot of quick turns because of how often the jets go up for their sorties.”
28 MXG Airmen are proving some Agile Combat Employment (ACE) concepts during Red Flag, with a smaller support footprint and Airmen working outside their day-to-day missions.
“The team has been working through the ACE concept and proven what multi-capable Airmen are by helping each other out,” said Jordan. “Whether it's hydro helping jets or Aerospace Ground Equipment coming out with a unique solution.”
Agile Combat Employment addresses today’s changing threat environment, which no longer allows the Air Force to treat overseas bases as sanctuaries. The Raiders of the 28th Bomb Wing are at the forefront, providing new mission capabilities that reassure allies and partners, while providing credible deterrence.