by Lt. Col. Tony Retka
35th Fighter Squadron Commander
11/21/2012 - KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- A mentor of mine once said, "Relationships matter, that's how we get things done in the Air Force."
My squadron recently deployed to Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska to
conduct training on one of our nation's premier air-to-surface bombing
ranges in the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex.
Among other tasks, our training plan involved conducting close air
support missions with US, Canadian and Belgian special operation ground
We coordinated for months to ensure the range and airspace would be
available for our use during our scheduled fly window. The Friday prior
to our first flights, the range control officers informed us , the
special operations forces would not be able to access the range due to a
scheduling mix up. As a result, our squadron would not be able to
conduct our training and employ our scheduled munitions as planned.
After some inquiring, we learned there was a U.S. Army aviation
battalion scheduled to conduct their annual training at the same time,
on the same range as our squadron. Range management informed us that the
range memorandum of agreement stipulated the Army had priority for
scheduling and use of the range.
Needless to say, I was not very pleased with this information since we
had planned for many months and spent a lot of money to ensure we could
accomplish this training. Range management was not willing or able to
coordinate range time for us and it appeared that we would lose out on
some very valuable training.
Having spent three years at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., where I attended
Army Command and General Staff College and followed on to teach Air
Force doctrine to Army majors, I gained an understanding for how things
get done in the Army.
I thought if I were able to talk with the Army aviation battalion
leadership, we might be able to work out a solution at the unit level to
ensure all parties involved could get their desired training objectives
Since the Army was conducting field training with very limited
communications capability, the most expeditious way for me to talk to
them was to go visit them in the field. Two of the special operations
soldiers, one of my flight commanders, and me jumped in a vehicle and
drove out to their forward operating base to meet with their operations
We opened the meeting by offering up a small token from the Eielson AFB
Class Six store and explained to them our situation along with our
training objectives. After the forty-five minute meeting we were able to
work out a mutually beneficial arrangement that would allow all parties
to accomplish their missions and get their desired training.
The positive outcome of this meeting and the fact that my squadron was
able to achieve the objectives of our deployment was a direct result of a
professional relationship formed between the battalion operations
officer and myself. We were able to bypass the middleman (range control)
and coordinate a solution to meet the commander's intent for two
services from three nations.