Logistics moves Red Flag to success

  • Published
  • By Caitlin Kenney
  • 99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
With each Red Flag, Nellis AFB and its surrounding community see and hear jets take off for weeks, training for future combat missions.

But one of the most important elements of every Red Flag is who keeps these exercises moving behind the scenes.

The 99th Logistics Readiness Squadron is unique in the Air Force for its support of training exercises that participate at Nellis in addition to daily base activities. From fueling hundreds of aircraft to lodging and moving cargo for thousands of participants, 99th LRS keeps Red Flag going and participants focused on their mission.

Nellis Support Center under the 99th LRS specifically caters to units participating in exercises, such as Red Flag and Green Flag, and functions as a one stop shop travel agency.

"This is the only place in the Air Force that you'll find it," said Maj. Craig Lane, 99th Logistics Readiness Squadron operations officer. "If you go and look at another logistics readiness squadrons in the Air Force, you won't find a support center like we have here. [The support center's] sole purpose in life is the reception, bed down and redeployment for Red Flag, Green Flag and the Weapons Instructors Course -- all those exercises that come here. That's what NSC is here for."

With almost 30 units involving 2,254 personnel, Red Flag 13-3 was one of the largest Red Flags ever. It takes about six to seven months of planning to develop a Red Flag exercise and coordinate specific requests made by each unit. Those requests and all unit essentials go through the Nellis Support Center, overseen by flight commander Capt. Chris Allen.

"We are a one-of-a-kind entity in the Department of Defense," Allen said. "We like to bill ourselves as the one-stop shop for all logistics."

"In a lot of fashions we're kind of like a mini-LRS. We have our own logistics section, we have supply section and our own vehicle ops section in addition to the only LRS owned parking plan [for the flightline]," he said.

The Nellis Support Center is so unique and good at what they do, other units have called wanting to replicate their capabilities for their own exercises.

As the middleman for participating units, the center is the hub for support requests and questions during Red Flag. This includes coordinating cargo unloading and uploading for exercise units with the Nellis Air Terminal as well as utilizing local hotels and rental companies when base resources are exhausted.

Red Flag 12-3 was the largest Red Flag supported by the Nellis Support Center since 1988, and Red Flag 13-3 was close to matching it. The center worked 4,640 total man-hours assisting 147 aircraft and 2,254 service members taking part in the three week exercise. The support center managed it all with only 16 people.

Last year alone "we provided $54 million in logistic support [for] 36 exercises to 221 [Department of Defense] and allied units," Allen said "That is the goal, to be the silent support," he added.

Fueling aircraft is a 24-hour operation and Red Flag 13-3 saw 6.8 million gallons of fuel delivered and fuels management worked 11,160 man hours dedicated to getting exercise aircraft into the air. Filling up everything from F-22s, Royal Air Force Tornados and Typhoons, to the tankers that fuel them in mid-air, the fuel operators are trained to navigate the chaotic flightline and deliver needed fuel in a safe way.

"Our operations do not really change between Red Flag and regular flying days," said 1st Lt. Kevin Limani, fuels management flight commander. "The only change is the amount of fuel we're issuing."

Senior Master Sgt. Jeffrey Hancock, fuels management flight superintendent, says they can issue up to as much as three times the normal fuel amount during a Red Flag, which averages about 580,000 gallons a day. Fuels also tests JP-8 [jet fuel] on base to make sure it is up to military standards.

"We have the largest fleet in ACC," Limani said. "We have 50 refuelers and more people than many other bases."

Hancock said with the increased workload that Red Flag brings, the shop that is most affected is their own control center that logs fuel requests.

"When [the control center] gets 10 or 15 or 20 aircraft calling at once, they start to feel the pressure," he said.

The goal is to get the refuelers to the aircraft in less than 30 minutes from receiving the call.

Limani stressed the importance of having their section work effectively.

"If we miss one aircraft and they don't get their fuel, that could possible change the exercise scenario. We have to make sure that prior to take off, all the aircraft that need to be up range have the fuel they are required to have," he said.
Limani and Hancock agreed that the work that fuel management does during Red Flag is good training for deployment down range. "I think if they can do it here, they can really do it anywhere," Limani said.

The 99th LRS was recently awarded the Air Force-level 2012 Daedalian Maj. Gen. Warren R. Carter Logistics Effectiveness Award for their work. In addition, the Fuels Management Flight won the ACC's Drake Trophy/American Petroleum Institute Award and the Fuels Flight is a Top 3 finalist at the Air Force level for API.