NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, NEV (AFNS) —
As the Singapore CH-47 Chinook’s twin rotors build speed and spin in unison, a loud but calming hum fills the interior of the helicopter. Seven Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape specialists sit with their gear in front of them, parachutes on their backs.
As the drop zone nears, they all stand, connect to a static line back-to-back, and countdown from 10 minutes, to six, to one.
One by one, the specialists jump out of the Chinook. As the static line pulls each parachute, they float to the Nevada Test and Training Range completing a combat insertion training mission during Red Flag 17-2, hosted at Nellis Air Force Base.
Red Flag is a large exercise that provides combat training in a degraded and operationally limited environment making the training missions as realistic as possible. It includes the U.S. Air Force and its allies and coalition partners.
For 20 years in Grand Prairie, Texas, the Republic of Singapore Air Force has worked in unison with its pilots, air crews and the U.S. Army. The unit came to Red Flag 17-2 to train and lend its unique skill set in a multitude of different mission sets.
“The primary mission while here at Red Flag is combat search and rescue, and personnel recovery, with a secondary mission of a few paradrops for the pararescuemen; and then also internal loading and regular troop insertions into the combat area,” said U.S. Army Warrant Officer Jeffry Epperson, a standardization pilot assigned to the U.S. Army flight training detachment, Grand Prairie Armed Forces Reserve Complex Hensley Field, Grand Prairie, Texas.
While at Red Flag, the RSAF is tasked with lending their talents to CSAR and personnel recovery, but these training missions are not executed without meticulous planning.
Mission planning begins the day prior in the Red Flag building, and when you take into account the maintenance and operations side it becomes a very lengthy and thorough process, Epperson said.
In performing these missions, Red Flag allows the members of the RSAF to extend their skill set by working and learning how coalition partners operate.
“It’s good for Singapore to broaden their scope, rather than just seeing the Army that augments them,” Epperson said. “They now see the Navy, Spain, Dutch and France and run the gamut of countries that they can work with. Not only does it broaden the scope of their abilities, but also fosters relationships.”
Along with exposing the crew to new allies, Red Flag has served to place the RSAF into new exercise conditions.
“Red Flag has helped them a lot,” Epperson said. “It’s a unique exercise where they can get the mission set that the Army doesn’t provide in their exercises. Those exercises are more troop insertion, air assault type missions, but this is CSAR, personnel recovery and working with fighters that they don’t get a lot of. The Singapore air force’s bread and butter back home is CSAR around the ocean and their islands, so it helps them get better here and also when they go back to their home station.”
Not only has Red Flag exposed the RSAF to new variables such as air assault and troop insertion, it also granted new pilots with leadership experience.
“Red Flag has helped Singapore in progressing their younger fliers, helping them learn to not only mission plan, but be leads,” said U.S. Army Capt. Eric Maldando, the USAFTD operations officer. “They set out the mission set, spoke to what they expected and led the mission. It helps their junior pilots become more experienced and seasoned.”
With these new missions and leadership experiences provided to the RSAF by Red Flag, they leave Nellis AFB with new experiences and a bolstered skill set added to their repertoire.