Alaskan exercise prepares Madison-based Airmen for future deployments

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jon LaDue
  • Wisconsin National Guard
More than 130 Wisconsin Air National Guard members -- pilots, maintainers and support personnel from the Madison-based 115th Fighter Wing, along with 10 of the unit's F-16 Fighting Falcons -- took part in a two-week Red Flag exercise at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska for a unique training opportunity they wouldn't normally get in Wisconsin.

Pilots from the 115th flew against two active duty F-16 flying squadrons, from Misawa Air Base, Japan, and Osan Air Base, Korea. This was the first time in nearly eight years the fighter wing has participated in an Alaskan Red Flag exercise.

Maj. Bart Van Roo, an F-16 pilot with the 176th Fighter Squadron said he really enjoyed the Red Flag exercise and feels training in an unfamiliar environment against other pilots is invaluable.

Maj. Willa Panzer, officer in charge of the 176th Aircraft Maintenance Flight, said the Airmen who deployed to Red Flag really performed admirably, despite working at an unfamiliar location with outside units and new leadership.

"I think this was an excellent deployment," Panzer said. "These folks have a can-do attitude and all share the common goal of getting the job done."

Master Sgt. Robert Pelletier, 115th Maintenance Squadron avionics integrated shop technician, said the exercise allows the younger Airmen to realize the importance of their roles in a deployed environment because "pilots can't do their job, if [Airmen] don't do theirs."

"It is very similar to an [Air Expeditionary Force] deployment -- they get to see how important it is to work together to get the job done and how their job impacts each sortie," Pelletier said. "Everyone worked well together and did a great job."

The purpose of exercises like Red Flag is to streamline processes, garner more "deployment like" experience and work out any kinks in the entire process.

Senior Airman Brandon Barger, a munitions troop with the 115th Fighter Wing, said despite some changes in the mission when he arrived to Red Flag, the exercise was very productive.

"It's always nice going to another base and learning how to deal with many different types of people and how they do things," Barger said. "I can say some of our newer people learned a lot and have taken some things away from this trip."