“Pros from Dover” rewrite Red Flag’s playbook

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Andria J. Allmond
  • 512th AW Public Affairs
"There's no shame in getting sick," Maj. Christian Fiore said with a smile during an unofficial pre-flight briefing, May 3 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. "Just use those little bags that we give you and keep on."

The 326th Airlift Squadron pilot from Dover Air Force Base, Del., was joined by fellow 326th AS aviator Maj. Ben Lasher, who nodded in agreement of the nauseating effects felt during a low-altitude flying mission, an omen of a forthcoming bodily response.

The two Reserve pilots were part of an eight-person crew, which included Col. Tod Fingal, commander of the 414th Combat Training Squadron "Red Flag," that took part in a training mission intended on possibly re-shaping Red Flag -- the Air Force's premier air-to-air combat training exercise that includes both U.S. and allied nations' combat air forces.

Red Flag, which was created to provide pilots the experience of multiple, intensive air combat sorties in the safety of a training environment, currently does not demonstrate certain capabilities of the C-17 Globemaster and its crew.

The 512th Airlift Wing's aircrew took on the challenge of changing that.

"There are definitely parts of Red Flag that test the aircraft and crew, but there isn't anything like a (noncombatant exercise operation)," said Fiore. "We know that in the current military climate, aircrews must have the training to perform NEOs in an environment as realistic as possible. So, that's a big part of what we're here to do today. We'd like to see if we can get this portion of today's mission incorporated into Red Flag"

The crew began the mission with a tactical departure, pitching the aircraft up to 29,000 feet before plunging down to a mere 300 feet via tactical descent to settle into a low-level position. While maintaining a low altitude, the crew underwent a series of defensive maneuvers, jolting the large aircraft to-and-fro, testing their skill as well as their queasiness. After deploying flares, the pilots plummeted the jet downward for a tactical arrival and assault landing.

Upon touching down into a replicated hot zone, a simulated NEO charged the crew with quick thinking and action as they safely boarded and secured passengers upon the awaiting aircraft.

Based on Dover's display, Fingal noted the NEO portion of the mission is a critical piece missing in the Red Flag plan and said that he was interested in its inclusion in future exercises.

"We were interested in seeing what this aircraft could do and knew that the pros from Dover were the right people for the job," said Fingal.

Lt. Col. Robert Graham, 326th AS commander who also piloted the mission, said he agreed with Fingal's assessment.

Air crews from around the world may now benefit from the work of the reservists from the 512th Airlift Wing. While credit for Dover's performance and influence in air force operations could be given to Graham, who detected the need for the NEO, he would rather give the kudos to his crew.

"Our success is based on what this crew did today," said Graham. "We wanted to come out here and (test how far we could push the aircraft) and I think that we succeeded in doing that. Hopefully, we'll see the results of today's mission when we participate in the next Red Flag. I'm proud of what we did here today...and that we still have enough motion sickness bags for the flight home."