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Maple Flag exercise
Senior Airman Edward Johnson, 46th Aerial Port Squadron, Dover Air Force Base, Del., helps Royal Canadian Air Force members load an aircraft June 1, 2012, during the Maple Flag international air combat exercise in Cold Lake, Alberta, Canada. (Courtesy photo)
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Airlift control flight supports Canadian exercise

Posted 6/18/2012   Updated 6/18/2012 Email story   Print story


by Senior Airman Joe Yanik
512th Airlift Wing

6/18/2012 - COLD LAKE, Canada -- Reservists from Dover Air Force Base, Del., are participating in a 25-day international air combat exercise here.

Members of the 512th Airlift Control Flight are operating a contingency response element at Maple Flag, a variation of the Air Force's Red Flag exercise at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. The Airmen plan and coordinate airfield operations, including cargo services, with the Royal Canadian Air Force while completing training and certification of their new members in a deployed environment.

"We have to be familiar with a lot of things to keep everything running smoothly. We have to know a little about a lot," said Maj. Shirley M. Whitney, one of eight Liberty Wing members working in Canada through June 22. A ninth reservist, Capt. Napoleon Solages, returned to Delaware Saturday after two weeks there.

Maple Flag, which began May 28, is centered at Cold Lake Air Base about 180 miles northeast of Edmonton in the province of Alberta and provides training for fighter aircrews, as well as to transport, electronic warfare, air refueling, air defense and airborne early warning and control assets.

Airlift control flights are called contingency response elements in deployed environments, said Whitney, and their mission is to train their members to rapidly mobilize and deploy to support combatant commanders.

"We are a small group of highly-trained individuals that can conduct autonomous operations from austere locations or we can augment the infrastructure at established civilian or military airfields," she said.

At Maple Flag, the mission is accomplished by Dover reservists whose responsibility is to provide on-site management of Air Mobility Command airfield operations, including command and control, communications, aerial port services, maintenance, security, weather and intelligence.

Six members of the Dover team are from the 46th Aerial Port Squadron and have provided the Royal Canadian Air Force with air mobility operational support for transient cargo and air refueling aircraft arriving at Cold Lake. They also verify cargo documentation to ensure that it is safe to load onto military aircraft.

Master Sgt. Eric Paglusch, an aircraft loadmaster by trade, is working at Cold Lake as a liaison between aircrews and base operations.

The exercise, held almost annually since 1987, allows flying personnel from different nations to develop their ability to operate together by simulating a United Nations air campaign. Participants engage in daily missions that involve confronting and dealing with air- and ground-based threats. They use the 7,200-square-mile Cold Lake Air Weapons Range, which is more than three times the size of Delaware and features seven mock airfields and more than 640 targets built to resemble tanks, missile launchers and aircraft.

This year's Maple Flag also incorporates exercise Winged Warrior to offer training opportunities for non-fighter aircraft and land forces.

In addition to the U.S. and Canada, participating nations include Austria, Brazil, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Republic of Singapore and the United Kingdom, as well as NATO. Representatives from 10 other nations are observing the exercises.

Solages, the officer who is already home from Cold Lake, said that he enjoyed the opportunity to work closely with foreign military representatives and even appreciated learning their rank insignias outside of a wartime setting.

The deployment to Cold Lake has provided the Dover reservists with a tremendous training opportunity, said Whitney, the flight's operations officer.

"We have been able to work hand-in-hand with our Canadians counterparts both in real world missions as well as training classes that the NCO's from the 46th APS have put together. This allows us teach the Canadians some of the things we know as well as gain the knowledge of their experiences.

The integration with foreign military services provides a unique experience for all of the team members, she said.

"Sometimes, just learning how to communicate with someone from another country is the biggest challenge faced."

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