'Proving to be best!' Core unit support staff manages multiple squadrons, units

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- Under fluorescent lights, aircrew from more than 20 squadrons converge on a sole operations desk during the next few weeks for the most up-to-date information available pertaining to their sorties.

Air power, close-air support, air-to-air combat scenarios mixed with plenty of motivation and hard work has defined combat exercise Red Flag 14-1.

"We are excited to be here to participate in Red Flag," said Lt. Col. Tony Lombardo, 366th Maintenance Group deputy commander. "As part of the core group, we are here to facilitate a smooth arrival and bed-down of the 26 multinational and Department of Defense aviation units. It's a great opportunity for all of us to sharpen our edge, enhance our core competencies, and learn from one another. Plus the 65 degree weather in January doesn't hurt! "

Aircrew personnel from the multiple units rely on the skill and outstanding ability of a dedicated group of individuals chosen to be core unit members.

"Being selected as Red Flag support staff members means we are responsible for acting as a liaison between the multiple squadrons and maintenance units," said Staff Sgt. Anna Meechai, 391st Fighter Squadron aviation resource manager. "Basically, we ensure all paperwork and logistical needs are taken care of to ensure successful missions. Even though there are still lingering financial difficulties across the DoD we, as military members, are responsible for the safety of American citizens around the world."

Tax dollars are being spent wisely here as this is one of only three Red Flag exercises happening this year.

"Red Flag is one of the best opportunities the military has to get state-of-the-art training opportunities," said Meechai. "The exercise also gives us the rare chance to work side-by-side with our allied partners without actually being deployed downrange."

In addition to U.S. aircraft, the Royal Australian Air Force, and the Royal Air Force of the United Kingdom, are here participating in the combat exercise.

"We are excited for the opportunity to showcase our skill sets to a worldwide audience," said Senior Airman Jessica Reyes, 366th Operations Support Squadron weather forecaster. "We properly update the aircrews with what is going on so they are able to plan missions accordingly and avoid last-minute changes, which can cause problems or cancellations."

Reyes explained how potential forecast mistakes can cause cancellations which have a devastating ripple-effect throughout the squadrons.

"Proper weather forecasting is essential to ensuring every aspect of Red Flag is conducted safely and efficiently, whether it's a day or night flight," said Reyes. "We make sure the aircrews are updated on the current weather patterns which dictate the types of training sorties they're able to perform."

Both Meechai and Reyes are participating in their first Red Flag exercise, which has been expanded to incorporate all spectrums of warfare to include command and control, real-time intelligence, analysis and exploitation, and electronic warfare. Night missions have also been added in an effort to keep the training as realistic as possible.

"I'm looking forward to working with the different aircrews both at the desk and in the air," said Meechai. "We are lucky to have the opportunity to network with these military personnel from other countries because eventually we will go home and teach the lessons we learn here. This way we ensure this unique training experience reaches all Gunfighers."

Reyes agreed, stating, "This exercise gives military personnel an opportunity to experience realistic combat scenarios to prepare and train in the event of future conflicts or war. I'm definitely realizing how much the aircrews, regardless of nationality or branch of service, depend on up-to-date weather to plan successful missions. It's definitely high-stress with zero room for error but I feel the core unit is ready for the challenge and will excel in every way."

The international exercise is a fantastic opportunity for Mountain Home Air Force Base to lead the way as the core unit.

"Only the best of the best are chosen to attend Red Flag," said Meechai. "This is a fantastic opportunity for us, as the core unit, to show the world we are the best wing in the United States Air Force and that the Bold Tigers are the premier fighter squadron across the globe!"

Airmen understand that much of the attention will be focused heavily on them.

"We will do our very best every single day," said Reyes. "We want the military personnel from other nations and services to be thoroughly impressed with our professionalism, work-ethic and leadership qualities. Red Flag is our chance to show who the best really is ... the Gunfighters."