Red Flag 14-3

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The 3rd and the last RED FLAG U.S. Air Force exercise of 2014 has ended. It’s July in Las Vegas, Nevada and it’s hot, really hot and humid, as weather was blowing up from the Gulf of California in Mexico, thus making the conditions almost unbearable on Media Day, where approximately 28 photographers and journalist had gathered at Nellis Air Force Base to cover Red Flag 14-3 exercise.

As most of you know already, RED FLAG is a major exercise where units are formed into Blue Forces going up against the Red Forces (a.k.a. The Aggressors). This training includes units from throughout the U.S Air Force and can be also attended by the U.S. Naval & Marines Corps air units, as well as Allied foreign units (In this exercise, the French Air Force brought one of their Lockheed Martin C-130’s, and the Singapore Air Force was present with their Lockheed Martin F-16Cs and the Boeing F-15SGs’). The training is intense and brings units and people together for several weeks where they are put into various scenarios against the Aggressors planes.

The Public Affairs Office shuttled us from the back parking lot to  the Aggressors building on the base, and into a meeting room where we met with several of the participants of the exercise to answer any of the questions the media might have.

Many questions were asked, and if they could be answered, they were. One thing really stood out for me and it was this.

Captain Brian Smith of the 23rd Wing, 55th Rescue Squadron, flying Sikorsky HH-60s, at Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ, one of the Helicopters rescue pilots, stated that the biggest benefit for him while participating in Red Flag is that “he never gets to work with these other units such as the fighter planes, when he’s at his home base, so this really helps him and others out when they do get deployed to a combat zone, and they take the knowledge learned back with them and share that knowledge with others in their unit.”

Captain Anthony Keith of the 960th Airborne Air Control Squadron, 552nd Air Control Wing flying in the Boeing E-3 Sentry, based at Tinker AFB, in Oklahoma, also stated that he had participated in an earlier Red Flag exercise several years ago, and then while flying in Afghanistan, he recognized a voice from a different unit. He radioed to that pilot, asking if he had attended that particular Red Flag exercise he had been too, and the other pilot called back in the positive. He stated “he immediately felt better knowing he had flown with this other pilot form a different unit, and knew what the other would be doing during their combat sortie,”

The Media Panel session ended and we were driven to the runways, where the media is allowed to stand between the runways photographing the take offs and landings of the planes. Now this Media day turned out to be not like all of the others I have been use to. First, again the heat was just unbearable, and secondly, most of the International players had pulled out of attending, so this was one of the smallest exercises that I’ve seen. Right before the exercise started, there was a security breach on the base, and the media was ordered back on the bus and shelter in place. No one really knew what was happening, but the air conditioning of the bus was welcomed. We then received word, that our Media Day was cancelled and we were to head off of the base. While disappointing to miss out, it really was okay with me, due to the heat. Most of us, headed over to the Las Vegas Speedway adjacent to the base and it’s runways, and we were able to get some decent images from here.

The next day, I was schedule for a Media Flight with the 92nd ARW, Fairchild AFB, WA flying in KC-135’s. There were 9 photojournalist on board this plane, and it was 107 degrees on the ramp, as we waited to board the plane for our flight. The Air Force personnel had the large cargo door open, so when we got into the plane that had been baking in the sun all morning, it was approximately 120 degrees. We waited around for awhile, and then the door closed, and the temp shot up to over 130 degrees, and we sat there for over 30 minutes baking in this oven until we took off. It was bad, really bad, but this is the price you pay to get on these flights.

Once airborne, we rapidly climbed to around 25,000 ft, and eventually the temp cooled down and it became comfortable for all. After only 15 minutes, we started to received fighters thirsty for fuel, as F-16s from Shaw AFB and F-22’s from Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida.

We were in the air for about 3 hours when it was time to head back to Nellis. as were about to land, there was a sudden feeling of floating, and it lasted for awhile, when the Kc-135’s wheels suddenly touched down and then we were airborne again with another go around. The crewman on board said we had floated for approximately 3,000 ft, down the runway, and the pilot decided to do a “Touch ‘n” Go”, and make another go of it.

I want to thank the U.S. Air Force, Nellis AFB, and the staff of the Public Affairs Office for invited us to come to their home and let us see what they do on a daily basis.

Video by Airshowvid.com

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Douglas Aguillard

Douglas (Doug) Aguillard is a Freelance Photojournalist who specializes in the Military & Aviation fields. Based in San Diego, CA, he is a Marine veteran., He currently is a photojournalist for the Military Press Newspaper, the Historical / Archival Dept. photographer for the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum at MCAS Miramar, and a very proud member of Photo Recon, and has been published in various magazines and books such as "Combat Aircraft Monthly" magazine, "Vertical " magazine, "Wings of Gold" magazine, Sikorsky Frontlines newsletter, and the San Diego Air & Space Museum's Book: "Celebrating the San Diego Air & Space Museum: A History of the Museum and it's collections".

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