Green Flag 14-2

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When you think of Nellis Air Force base, you may think of ‘Las Vegas’, ‘the home of the Thunderbirds’, or even the well known air exercise ‘Red Flag’. However there is another very important training mission conducted here throughout the year. This exercise is known as ‘Green Flag-West’. Green Flag is administered by the 549th Combat Training Squadron (CTS). The 549th CTS Executive Officer (XO) and Operations Supervisor, Captain James Clapper, sat down with me to explain the mission of Green Flag-West. Captain Clapper also facilitates the debriefs with the participating air crews, as well as the Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTACS).

“Green Flag” is a joint air-land integration combat training exercise, which is conducted in conjunction with the United States Army at Ft. Irwin, to train war-fighters prior to deployment.” said CPT Clapper. Unlike Red Flag which is only held 2-3 times a year, Green Flag is held approximately 10 times a year. Aircraft will launch from Nellis AFB, and fly down to the Ft. Irwin National Training Center (NTC) outside of Barstow. Typical aircraft used for this exercise can include: F-15Es, F-16s, F/A-18s, A-10s, B-1s, or B-52s, as well as a variety of foriegn aircraft such as F1 Mirages, and GR4 Tornadoes. Even aircraft such as Civil Air Patrol Cessna’s, and numerous types of drones can be employed during these missions. These aircraft conduct primarily Close Air Support (CAS) missions in support of troops on the ground who are preparing for upcoming deployments overseas.

Green Flag 14-2 was held September 27th-October 11th. Twice a day, B-1 Lancers, (or Bones), from the 37th Bomb Squadron, Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, were launched in support of the 305th Combat Engineer Company, as well as other ground units, who were training at Ft. Irwin in what is known as ‘The Box’. In ‘The Box’, units prepare for upcoming deployments to various locations around the globe. The Bones launched in the early afternoon for a daytime sortie, and again in the evening for a nighttime sortie. If you have never seen a B-1 launch at night, let me tell you, it is an incredible sight to be seen. I spent some time on the bomber ramp with the maintenance crew as well. I watched them meticulously perform their work as they prepped the Bones for launch, and perform their post flights after they had recovered their aircraft from their successful missions.

1st Lt Chris Alfonso from the 37th Aircraft Maintenance Unit told me, “This exercise was a success because of the concerted collaboration between maintenance and ops, all the way from the BS CC to the lowest ranking Airmen. We were united with one goal of executing our mission and launching our B1s.” 1LT Alfonso added, “Our shared vision was evident from the beginning as we leaned on each other to solve problems and start the exercise in style. The effects and dedication never stopped and we launched 43 for 43 effective combat training sorties.” I was very impressed with the work ethic of the 37th AMU, and would like to thank 1LT Alfonso for his hospitality and taking the time to discuss his unit’s mission. Before we parted ways, he made sure to tell me he was extremely proud of his maintenance crew and they were “The best B1 AMU in the history of the US Air Force”. After witnessing them in action, it is hard to disagree.

Along with the 37th Bomb Squadron, I’d like to thank A1C Villacorte and the entire 99th Air Base Wing’s public affairs office. Once again they made me feel very welcome, and went out of their way to make it possible for me to cover the Close Air Support side of my sister unit’s (305th EN CO) rotation at Ft. Irwin during Green Flag West 14-2.

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Steve Lewis

Steve is a Southern California based photographer living in the Los Angeles area.

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