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Red Flag 11-2 provides Belgians realistic training

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- A C-130 Hercules from the Belgium air force's 20 Squadron rests on the flightline Feb. 2 after completing a mission in Red Flag 11-2. The C-130 is deployed from Melsbroek Air Base, Belgium, to participate in the combined exercise that provides a realistic combat training environment to the U.S. and its allies. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Benjamin Wilson)

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- A C-130 Hercules from the Belgium air force's 20 Squadron rests on the flightline Feb. 2 after completing a mission in Red Flag 11-2. The C-130 is deployed from Melsbroek Air Base, Belgium, to participate in the combined exercise that provides a realistic combat training environment to the U.S. and its allies. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Benjamin Wilson)

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- Two C-130 Hercules from the Belgium air force's 20 Squadron taxi on the flightline Feb. 2 after completing a mission in Red Flag 11-2. The C-130s deployed from Melsbroek Air Base, Belgium, to participate in the combined exercise that provides a realistic combat training environment to the U.S. and its allies. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Benjamin Wilson)

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- Two C-130 Hercules from the Belgium air force's 20 Squadron taxi on the flightline Feb. 2 after completing a mission in Red Flag 11-2. The C-130s deployed from Melsbroek Air Base, Belgium, to participate in the combined exercise that provides a realistic combat training environment to the U.S. and its allies. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Benjamin Wilson)

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- 1st Cpl. Lesoil Poscol, aircraft maintainer, marshals a C-130 Hercules from the Belgium air force's 20 Squadron Feb. 2 after completing a mission in Red Flag 11-2. The C-130 and Corporal Poscol are deployed from Melsbroek Air Base, Belgium, to participate in the combined exercise that provides a realistic combat training environment to the U.S. and its allies. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Benjamin Wilson)

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- 1st Cpl. Lesoil Poscol, aircraft maintainer, marshals a C-130 Hercules from the Belgium air force's 20 Squadron Feb. 2 after completing a mission in Red Flag 11-2. The C-130 and Corporal Poscol are deployed from Melsbroek Air Base, Belgium, to participate in the combined exercise that provides a realistic combat training environment to the U.S. and its allies. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Benjamin Wilson)

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- Staff Sgt. Brandon Pirmann, 414th Combat Training Squadron parachute rigger, drives an all-terrain vehicle from a C-130 Hercules from the Belgium air force's 20 Squadron Feb. 2 after completing a mission in Red Flag 11-2. The C-130 is deployed from Melsbroek Air Base, Belgium, to participate in the combined exercise that provides a realistic combat training environment to the U.S. and its allies. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Benjamin Wilson)

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- Staff Sgt. Brandon Pirmann, 414th Combat Training Squadron parachute rigger, drives an all-terrain vehicle from a C-130 Hercules from the Belgium air force's 20 Squadron Feb. 2 after completing a mission in Red Flag 11-2. The C-130 is deployed from Melsbroek Air Base, Belgium, to participate in the combined exercise that provides a realistic combat training environment to the U.S. and its allies. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Benjamin Wilson)

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- Adjutant Ludo Geens, aircraft maintainer, performs a post-flight inspection on a C-130 Hercules from the Belgium air force's 20 Squadron Feb. 2 after completing a mission in Red Flag 11-2. The C-130 and Adjutatn Geens are deployed from Melsbroek Air Base, Belgium, to participate in the combined exercise that provides a realistic combat training environment to the U.S. and its allies. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Benjamin Wilson)

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- Adjutant Ludo Geens, aircraft maintainer, performs a post-flight inspection on a C-130 Hercules from the Belgium air force's 20 Squadron Feb. 2 after completing a mission in Red Flag 11-2. The C-130 and Adjutatn Geens are deployed from Melsbroek Air Base, Belgium, to participate in the combined exercise that provides a realistic combat training environment to the U.S. and its allies. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Benjamin Wilson)

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- Belgian air force C-130 Hercules aircrew members from Melsbroek Air Base are taking advantage of training in a large force exercise with real aggressor squadrons during Red Flag 11-2.

"We can train airdrops at home, but what we cannot do at home is integrate with a large force exercise and integrate with all the other assets," said Captain-Commandant Peter Wijffels, 20 Squadron executive officer.

Integrating with other aircraft during an exercise or battle is vital to the survival of the C-130 crew and their mission.

"If we go into a high-threat scenario we need protection," Commandant Wijffels said. "We don't have any guns or missiles, so we need protection from fighters."

In addition to flying with multiple friendly aircraft, enemy aircraft are used to present an actual threat, which adds to the realism of the exercise.

"Instead of just playing that there is a threat on the ground or there is a threat in the air, the threat is actually there in Red Flag," Commandant Wijffels said. "They have two aggressor squadrons which are playing enemy fighters and the whole Red Flag Team is providing ground threats."

Off the field of battle, the 57th Information Aggressor Squadron keeps Red Flag participants on their toes safeguarding critical information.

"They even provide information threats," Commandant Wijffels said. "I heard the other day they are going through our garbage to try to steal some information from us and then use it against us. It's realistic, it's not simulated and that's what makes it special."

To keep the exercise as real as possible the Red Flag staff provides Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape experts to help visiting squadrons meet training goals.

"When guys come to Red Flag they give us their list of training objectives and we help if we fit into what they need," said Staff Sgt. Jeremy Callaway SERE specialist. "With the Belgians we are doing day and night airdrops from 17,999 feet above ground level all the way down to 1,250 feet AGL and we are supporting them with combat on-loads and offloads."

While the objective of the SERE specialists and aggressor squadrons stationed here is to support the visitors of Red Flag, the training benefits everyone involved.

"It's a great training opportunity to come here and fight a war, especially with ground here that resembles Afghanistan," Sergeant Callaway said. "Working with our NATO participants here, we understand what their limitations are here and how to work with them -- it helps us work with them down range easier."

From the SERE specialists and allied air support to the aggressor squadrons, everyone involved plays an integral role in the realism of the Red Flag experience.

"There are not many exercises in the world which are this big and this realistic," Commandant Wijffels said. "Red Flag sets a high standard making sure that we have good training and we are ready for a threat that is, maybe, not even there yet, but which could be in the near future."

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