JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska – Maintainers with the 62d Airlift Wing, from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, are vital to the success of C-17 Globemaster III operations during Exercise RED-FLAG, Alaska 23-1 and Exercise Rainier War 22B.
RED FLAG-Alaska is a series of Pacific Air Forces commander-directed field training exercises for U.S. forces, providing joint offensive counter-air, interdiction, close air support, and large force employment training in a simulated combat environment.
Exercise Rainier War is a full-scale readiness exercise with an Force Generation prioritization; demonstrating the ability to generate, employ and sustain a combat force during a rigorous wartime scenario.
“We’re up here in Alaska working in different conditions to learn about the types of unique training required for future deployments,” said Tech. Sgt. Chase Gautschi, 62d Aircraft Maintenance Squadron C-17 Globemaster III flying crew chief. “We are practicing how to get aircraft ready for flights, how to ensure we support the aircrew and also how to integrate with other maintenance units, as well as other airframes and countries.”
Participating in Red Flag -Alaska in conjunction with Exercise Rainier War is an opportunity for members from the 62d AW to ensure precise training across multiple weeks.
“I think combining RED FLAG-Alaska with Exercise Rainier War makes sense because it gives us all the chance to really focus on the deployment mindset,” said Gautschi. “This is what we do no matter where we go. There’s always challenges because the conditions are not like back at home station. These exercises really make us focus on the Multi-capable Airmen concept to get out of our comfort zones, think outside the box, and come up with solutions.”
Maintenance crews worked countless hours across both day and evening shifts in order to ensure the aircraft were able to meet exercise requirements.
“This is my first time participating in an exercise of this large scale and I’m having a really good experience,” said Senior Airman David Jones, 62d AMXS crew chief. “I haven’t deployed yet so this is a good opportunity for me to experience what it will be like and prepare myself.”
Jones explained his standard roles and responsibilities are pretty much the same but the processes he is used to are different being so far away from home station.
“We’re still doing regular maintenance and inspections, but getting assistance for the more detailed tasks can be tough,” said Jones. “Back home, we know everyone and where to go for assistance. But despite the differences, we have met our goals of meeting the maintenance and inspection requirements. It’s just out here, things flow a little differently.”
The rigorous training means aircraft need to be thoroughly inspected, and sometimes, changes must be made in order to meet the next day’s mission objectives.
“Some of the training requires the aircraft to land in areas that are only semi-prepared, so we have to go underneath the aircraft and perform maintenance to protect it from being damaged,” said Gautschi. “Safety is a huge priority in everything we do, both for people and equipment. These semi-prepared runway operations are a big part of the exercises, so as maintenance we have to remove the anti-collision light from the bottom of the aircraft because otherwise the dirt or rocks where the aircraft lands can break them.
Gautschi continued by explaining some additional priorities for his team such as checking the water separators inside the air conditioning systems, checking tires for proper servicing, and inspecting the impact tape that keeps radio antennas and gear doors from being damaged.
In these types of large scale exercises, maintainers working together to share knowledge so they can swiftly and safely provide fully-mission capable aircraft is a huge mission priority.
“I think this exercise is a good opportunity for all the skill levels of Airmen we have here because it gives them a good idea of their expectations and great training for when they deploy in the future,” said Gautschi. “It also shows them the next set of responsibilities they will have as they progress in their careers and make rank.”
Exercises like RED FLAG-Alaska and Exercise Rainier War gives Team McChord Airmen an excellent opportunity to learn and grow as servicemembers.
“I really enjoy how we can come out here and do our jobs surrounded by other types of aircraft and people from across the globe,” Jones said. “I’m enjoying my time and the experience here a lot.”