Ancient Techniques for Modern Warfare

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nevada -- Red Flag at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, is the pinnacle of modern warfare training. Red forces take on blue forces with cutting edge weapons platforms while expert technicians prepare and repair those platforms to bring the fight to the enemy.

During Red Flag 15-3, an airman took time during this high-tech training to practice one of the oldest forms of combat: kung fu.

"Patience and flexibility is what Kung Fu teaches me," said Senior Airman Edmund Aldridge, an avionics systems journeyman with the 391st Aircraft Maintenance Unit. "Being in the Air Force, these attributes are a must-have, especially when there's an increase of flying hours, temporary duty locations and deployments."

With a heavier workload both at Mountain Home Air Force Base and other duty/deployed locations across the U.S. and abroad, the increase of potential stress is a huge factor to combat.

"During Red Flag my work schedule consisted of 10-hour shifts during the hottest part of the day," Aldridge said. "It was physically and mentally challenging some days due to heat exhaustion, but at the end of the day getting to practice Kung Fu, even if only for a short while, put me back into the mental state I needed to be in to accomplish the mission."

Red Flag was a high tempo environment but staying focused has provided him with the necessary tools to be successful during deployments.

"As a technician, working with other squadrons during Red Flag has helped me understand the inner workings of the tasks given to us on real world deployments," said Aldridge. "It has also taught me to continually better my knowledge on my aircraft as well as teach the younger airman how to stay focused on the mission at hand."

After being tasked to go on one TDY and three deployments in his seven years of service, Aldridge has found his qi and hopes to encourage his troops to find what helps them cope with the stressful environments they may encounter in their career.

"Being in a supervisory position drives me to ensure my airman is taken care of in a contingency op," Aldridge said. "I try to encourage them to take up a hobby to clear their mind and release any stressful and terse thoughts, so they can focus 110 percent on what needs to be done when they get to work."

Being a well-rounded airman hasn't always come easy for Aldridge but he continually strives to do the best he can in order to be a great influence to his son, Dayton and hopes to enroll him in Kung Fu as soon as possible.

"The thought of leaving a legacy behind for my son to follow or derive his drive to become a great addition to mankind, and contribute to our advancement keeps me focused," said Aldridge. "This focus, I hope to one day share with him through Kung Fu."

Aldridge has found kung fu helps him in all areas of his life, and helps him stay focused no matter what his job throws at him.

"Kung Fu is, in itself, a disciplinary art form," Aldridge said. "It teaches patience and promotes a yearning to excel in learning new things and being flexible to your surroundings. It definitely helps me regain my composure after a very long and stressful day at work."