Red Flag 20-3 kicks off amid COVID-19 pandemic

  • Published
  • By Tech Sgt. Ceaira Tinsley
  • 57th Wing Public Affairs

To keep the force tactically and technically sound, intense training is a must - even in the midst of a pandemic.

In line with the Air Force’s priority to restore readiness and win any fight, any time, Red Flag 20-3 is scheduled to kick off at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Aug. 3-14.

Though the base continues to adapt and operate under a new normal, defending the nation is a daily job.

“Our team built a great plan to keep our service members safe without compromising the rigorous training Red Flag is known for,” said Col. William Reese, 414th Combat Training Squadron commander. “We know our enemies won’t call a ‘time-out’ for this pandemic, so we’ve focused on warfighting integration and strengthened our partnership with our professional aggressor forces to ensure we are ready to defeat any threat.”

Red Flag 20-3 will provide realistic joint training for Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps participants, and give them the opportunity to prepare for threats that may occur in a contested, degraded or operationally limited environment.

“This exercise is critical to our readiness and we can’t let COVID-19 stop the Air Force or the military,” said Senior Master Sgt. Michael Consigny, 414th CTS superintendent. “We can still safely conduct Red Flag exercises in the midst of the pandemic that’s going on. We’re not just shutting down, and that shows our strength as a military.”

Consigny said, in order to make this Red Flag iteration come to life, he and his team carefully balanced creating the robust, multi-domain training environment the exercises are known for with ensuring military and public safety.

Red Flag planners have worked closely with the 99th Mission Support Group and 99th Medical Group to ensure exercise participants are aware of and adhere to local COVID mitigation protocols, including hand and surface sanitation, mask wearing and social distancing, both on and off duty.

“We’re proud to show what we can do even in this climate,” said Consigny. “Our Airmen have put a lot of hard work into ensuring that the correct policies and mitigation measures are in place to protect the training audience, Nellis community and the city of Las Vegas.”

Consigny said the members of the 414th CTS are excited to see their plans and preparation come to life when the training participants begin the large force combat exercise.

“Participants in this Red Flag will certainly notice some changes due to COVID-19, but those changes will mostly be logistical, like limiting the number of participants in a briefing room,” said Reese. “The heart of the exercise – rigorous integrated training scenarios that challenge all participants and demand excellence – remains unchanged.”  

The 57th Wing Commander Brig. Gen. Robert Novotny echoed Reese’s continual focus on the mission despite the unforeseen challenges COVID has brought to military operations worldwide.

“From our Thunderbirds' team participating in shows of appreciation for our healthcare professionals nationwide, to our recent COVID-era Weapons School graduation and now Red Flag, the 57th Wing and Team Nellis continue to face any and all challenges head on and succeed,” said Novotny. “I couldn’t be prouder of all the Airmen who continue to ensure our guests get the world-class training we’re known for so they’re prepared to win our nation’s battles.”