June 22, 2017 (by SSgt. Mike Campbell) - The Royal Thai Air Force from Task Force 601 flew 6,200 nautical miles and spent 21 intermittent hours traveling to the Last Frontier to be part of Red Flag 17-2.
Two RTAFAirmen stand in front of their C-130 Hercules on the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Flightline on June 8 during Operation Red Flag-Alaska 17-2. [USAF photo by SrA Kyle Johnson]
Red Flag is a joint/coalition exercise that takes place for two weeks at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and Eielson Air Force Base covering 67,000 square miles of airspace. The exercises involve several units and more than 500 deployed participants whose military missions may differ significantly from one another.
The RTAF flew Red Flag-Alaska 17-2 along with a C-17 from Hickam's 204th Airlift Squadron, two C-130 Hercules from the 401st Japanese Air Self-defense Force Squadron out of Komaki Air Base, an E-767 JWACS from Hamamatsu Air Base, an E-3 AWACS from the 961st Airborne Air Control Squadron and JBER players which included E-3 AWACS from the 962nd AACS and a C-17s from the 517th AS and 249th AS.
"Day-to-day coordination with maintenance operations and collaboration with other military personnel made Red Flag a great experience," said RTAF Group Capt. "Rush" Ratchabhak.
The Red Flag combat scenarios are carefully mapped out to allow the participants to maximize their unit's mission goals while accomplishing overall Red Flag mission success.
"The 601st squad practices low-level tactical lifts at their home base Thailand. In Alaska, the challenge is the high terrain with tactical lifts and the weather," said RTAF Group Cpt. Watcharapol "Warlock" Nualpenyai, who has been in the Royal Thai Air Force since 1988. "Deploying members, preparation for logistics, and completing our missions has made our exercise in Alaska a success."
The group captains would credit Lt. Col. Dennis Lincoln, commander of the U.S. Air Force 354th Operations Group Det 1, for a comfortable experience for their leadership and crew.
"It felt like a second home," said Ratchabhak.
Airmen participating in the Red Flag exercise said the interaction with the Thai Air Force was genuinely a great experience, from working with the C-130 members to dining and socializing with them.