548th CTS provides support for Green Flag East exercise

By Airman 1st Class Andrew Moua 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs

Every month, Barksdale hosts one of the largest training exercises in the U.S. Air Force. This exercise involves the U.S. Air Force's sister services as well as the Air Forces and troops of allied countries.

Green Flag East allows Airmen, Soldiers and pilots to refine their skills of calling in close air support.

Before a unit arrives, Green Flag East personnel must obtain flightline badges for the inbound unit, parking for various aircraft, and facilitate the arrival of equipment and personnel.

"When a unit is inbound, there are many tasks that must be done in order for the exercise to go as smooth as possible," said Staff Sgt. Gordon Waits, 548th Combat Training Squadron maintenance liaison. "Coordination with the 2nd Bomb Wing ensures that the inbound unit receives the resources needed to complete their pre-deployment training."

Once the visiting units have arrived, GFE personnel and the visiting unit's ground crew shift gears and begin launching aircraft.

"Whether it is the aircrew delivering bombs on target or the maintenance team putting loaded aircraft in the air, everyone is involved in the training," said Waits. "As a result of this exercise, the maintenance team learns how to coordinate with the different base agencies to facilitate the mission in a new environment and ultimately prepare for the real world mission and war time scenarios regardless of destination or environment."

Depending on the mission the unit can be sent to one of a few different "flag" exercises including the Red Flag Exercise, which focuses on helping a pilot through his first 10 sorties in a safe, controlled environment. It also helps improve survivability in combat situations and increase their skills in taking down enemy aircraft. The Green Flag
Exercise focuses on supporting infantry on the ground by providing close air support.

"The major command the unit is assigned to determines which units do what type of mission," said Lt. Col. Brett Waring, 548th Combat Training Squadron director of operations. "After the unit finds out which mission it will be doing, Air Combat Command will then send them to either the Green Flag or Red Flag exercises for pre-deployment training."

Behind the scenes, the 548th CST Detachment 1 ensures the exercise goes as planned and selected scenarios occur without problems by seamless communication and flow of information. The squadron liaisons work directly with the soldiers at Polk who oversee the operation, the squadron can then directly give directions to the visiting squadron as to what the soldiers on the ground need.

"Once the unit knows what it will be doing and where it wants to train, in terms of sorties or weapons expenditures, our squadron ensures they get what is needed," Waring said. "My staff of maintenance, munitions, communications, intelligence Airmen and ground liaison officers begin the process of crafting specific scenario injects and desired training objectives to make sure the squadron is exposed to all types of training elements."

With the skills and lessons learned from the past 10 years, Green Flag East continues to change.

"With the battlefield changing from counterinsurgency operations, the Army and Air Force are pushing for training that focuses on a more conventional enemy," said Waring. "The exercise is slowly starting to change from engaging insurgents to fighting tanks, surface to air missiles or other more robust enemy."

With the changing battlefield Airmen and Soldiers must adapt to, the 548th CST Det. 1 continues to provide facilities and resources for the Green Flag East exercise for dedicated close air support training.

"With the amount of support the 548th CTS Detachment 1 provides, they are invaluable to any unit about to deploy no matter the service," Waring said. "Without the GFE exercises, the Air Force's ability to integrate smoothly with its sister services would drop."