***image1***Approximately 150 Ramstein Airmen returned Dec. 18 from a nine-day deployment for EAGLE FLAG, an Air Force-level expeditionary combat support exercise executed by the Air Mobility Warfare Center’s Expeditionary Operations School at Fort Dix, N.J. The combat exercise itself was held at the nearby Naval Air Engineering Station in Lakehurst, N.J.
The nine-day exercise was comprised of more than 500 Airmen from 183 unit type codes across 30 functional areas fighting the Global War on Terrorism and providing humanitarian relief in the fictional country of Chimaera. Lessons learned from ongoing operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and other major efforts in the Global War on Terrorism were incorporated into the scenarios.
“One of the key facets of a successful EAGLE FLAG is that everyone should arrive fully trained,” said Col. Jaimie Smyser, 435th Mission Support Group commander, who also served as the 421st Air Expeditionary Group commander for the exercise. “EAGLE FLAG is expected to be a final rehearsal of expeditionary combat support skills before Airmen deploy in support of real-world contingencies.”
Airmen set up a deployed air base under simulated hostile fire, worked diplomacy issues with local citizens, including top Chimaeran military leaders, calmed local protests, worked legal and contracting issues and learned foreign customs/traditions.
Conditions during EAGLE FLAG included the wearing of full “battle rattle” ensemble, arming with M-16s, eating MREs, going days without showers, sleeping in cold tents, and combatting the elements – all while working 14 to 20-hour days. The exercise also incorporated scenarios of possible real-world threats – such as responding to or deterring terrorist threats or chemical attacks.
“I was incredibly impressed with the dedication, hard work and great attitude of all the participants,” said Colonel Smyser. “Even after the long, cold days and minimal sleep, people still maintained a positive attitude and continued being motivated.”
Although personnel came from different bases with a variety of home-station missions, teamwork and camaraderie were established immediately, as part of the larger “Air Force Team.”
This was a key factor in achieving success and, according to Colonel Smyser, helped build new friendships and contacts.
***image2***“As we in the military know, military friendships are very real and continue long after we depart from an exercise, home station assignment or deployment,” she said.
At the end of the exercise, Ramstein participants, along with more than 350 personnel from across the Air Force, received critical feedback and were told that they had set the bar higher than it had ever been set before. The EAGLE FLAG leadership personally advised Colonel Smyser that she and her AEG had taken the scenario and “kicked it to hell and back.”
Further, the instructor cadre stated they had never seen the AEG build so many tents so quickly. Not only were they impressed with the work, but every single participant was able to take shelter in a tent beginning with the first night rather than being forced to sleep outside, as has been the case in many previous exercises.
***image3***Maj. Gen. Scott Gray, Air Mobility Warfare Center commander, also praised the group’s efforts as, “the best execution and integration of the Contingency Response Group and the AEG to date.”
Designed as a way to keep mobility forces ready for deployed operations, the first EAGLE FLAG took place Oct. 13, 2003. Similar flying exercises, involving almost every type of Air Force aircraft, are called “Red Flag,” and are held periodically at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.
The Air Force currently has six EAGLE FLAG exercises scheduled for fiscal year 2007.
***image4***Colonel Smyser: why EAGLE FLAG is important
Today’s expeditionary environment demands that our Airmen are prepared to meet the challenges of deployment and EAGLE FLAG ensures just that. It highlights expeditionary combat support functions as a major part of the Air Force war fighting structure. Airmen who deploy to this exercise have the opportunity to not only do their jobs, but also learn the benefit of teamwork helping other career fields to build an air base. This is the only place where support forces are given the opportunity to train as a collective group in a safe and realistic training environment.