by Senior Airman Alex Fox Echols III
325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
2/3/2016 - NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- It's
a given that no aircraft leaves the ground unless it is working
properly. But that challenge is multiplied during the three-week Red
Flag 16-1 exercise. Hundreds of aircraft maintainers assigned to flying
squadrons from around the world work long hours to ensure all training
sorties are executed safely and efficiently.
Maintainers are the lifeblood of the flightline and with almost 80
planes taking off twice daily during Red Flag, they have their work cut
out for them. It is their primary duty to keep everything running safely
and ensure every mission essential aircraft leaves the ground and
"Anytime we take aircraft on the road we face challenges because we're
away from our facilities and our normal lanes for parts and supplies,"
said Capt. Matthew Goldey, 95th Aircraft Maintenance Unit officer in
charge, Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. "This exercise is pretty
accurate to what you would see downrange. This is about as real as it
gets and this is how we fight."
Red Flag 16-1's training is centered on readiness through completing
realistic combat missions in a contested, degraded,
operationally-limited environment. Despite these challenges, the
participating maintainers come together as a team to take care of daily
maintenance operations and each other.
"There is no one out here saying, 'that's not my job.' Instead it's,
'What do you need? Okay, let's get it done. This is broke? Okay, let's
fix it.'" said Master Sgt. Marc Neubert, 325th Aircraft Maintenance
Squadron first sergeant from Tyndall. "That is one of the coolest things
that I have seen so far."
Red Flag brings diverse units and countries together from all over the
world and across the services. One thing they all have in common is the
need for experienced maintainers to take care of their fleets.
"It's a satisfying feeling to know that I'm part of a bigger picture and
that I am making a difference," said U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class
Christian Gonzalez, VAQ-138 plane captain, Naval Air Station Whidbey
Island, Washington. "I'm really enjoying learning the way the different
branches do their maintenance and it's very interesting to see the
Total Force Integration is a key component of training during Red Flag
16-1. Capt. Goldey is a U.S. Air Force reserve officer from the 44th
Fighter Group, Tyndall Air Force Base, but during the exercise, he is
embedded in the 95th AMU as the officer in charge.
"We are one unit, and we are totally integrated," Goldey said. "There is
no 'us and them' anymore. We're all one team. We all wear the same
uniform and we're all out here to accomplish the same mission."
There is a loss of knowledge and continuity when active-duty airmen
rotate from a base and new ones come in. The U.S. Air Force alleviates
that problem through Total Force Integration with the Air Force Reserve
and Air National Guard.
"A TFI unit brings continuity to the active duty force," Goldey said.
"Being in the Reserve, you have the opportunity to hang around in a
particular location longer than most active-duty members so we bring
some continuity and experience to the fight."
While most maintainers are not working directly with the other units
outside their organization, the augmentee airmen fueling the aircraft
for the exercise are the exception. They work with most of the units on
"We have really good comradery with everyone," said Airman 1st Class
Alexis Aragon, 7th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels specialist, Dyess
Air Force Base, Texas. "Fuels is the lifeline of every aircraft, and
without fuel these aircraft can't go anywhere. I love it because I know
we're helping get the mission done, and I'm glad we augmentees could
come out here from different bases to help do that."
During exercises like Red Flag, the maintainers are able to shed any
weight they may carry during normal operations at their home base, like
special duties and office work, and just concentrate on their main
"Our Airmen are killing it right now," Goldey said. "Out here on the
flightline it's total mission focus. Out here it's just about putting
planes in the air. Anytime you get an opportunity to do that, it is
With the collaboration between military branches and multiple units from
around the world along with the Total Force Integration, the
maintainers of Red Flag 16-1 know they have an entire flightline backing
"I have learned here that you have to support one another," said Staff
Sgt. Matthew Brown, 44th Fighter Group weapons loader form Tyndall. "You
have to consistently do what you can to make sure everyone gets what
they need to accomplish the mission."