Beyond the flightline at Red Flag 15-1

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Eric Burks
  • 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Samantha Millea isn't a fighter pilot. She doesn't load munitions on aircraft and she's usually nowhere near a flightline.

But her role is just as important, as it takes a team effort from Liberty Airmen -- assigned to the 48th Fighter Wing at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England -- across many career fields to ensure mission success.

As an intelligence analyst with the 493rd Fighter Squadron, Senior Airman Millea works behind the scenes to ensure those in the air have the most accurate, up-to-date information on opposing forces and threats.

Ultimately, she said, "my job is to tell aircrews what they're going up against, to give them the best odds to succeed and make it back home alive."

At Red Flag 15-1, Millea provides intelligence analysis not only for her squadron, but for other allied partners. The current exercise includes aircraft and personnel from 21 different U.S. military squadrons, as well as the Royal Australian Air Force and the United Kingdom's Royal Air Force.

"When the squadron is designated the lead unit for a particular scenario then I brief everyone," she said. "When that's the case, we're looking at air and ground threats against all friendly forces ... fighters that fly high and fast, as well other aircraft that fly low and slow."

Millea said analysts gather as much information as possible on what the adversary is doing: force strength, capabilities and tactics.

"We take in all the information, analyze it, and then brief the aircrews," she said. "After they fly, we debrief them to find out what happened in the air, which often gives us new intel to pass on to the next aircrew."

Lt. Col. John Stratton, 493rd FS commander, said, "Our intel analysts are a critical component of any joint and coalition team."

Their knowledge and assessment of threat locations, numbers, capabilities, and tactics, are essential to planning and executing a successful mission, he said. "They're involved from start to finish and work hard to ensure pilots and aircrew have the best information available in order to meet the mission objectives."

Millea said the exercise has been a great opportunity to see things from a different perspective.

"I've been on several TDYs and Red Flag is definitely the most robust. I've gotten a better view of how everyone else is in the fight," Millea said. "In a real wartime situation you're not just going to have fighters involved, but a variety of other air and ground forces facing different threats."

Analysts need to be able to identify those factors for everyone and pass along critical information, she said.

"If I don't brief key information such as a new threat or a different tactic we've seen from an adversary, our guys could be in a bad spot," Millea said.

"Red Flag is a great way for us to train as a squadron," she said, "and it better prepares us for real-world contingencies."

One example, she noted, was last year's deployment in support of the Baltic Air Policing mission.

"That was a big changer for me," Millea said.

"Being in Lithuania, hearing the jets launch was like 'freedom rumbling through your body,'" she said. "All the training is worth it, knowing you're making a difference."

Stratton said, "Senior Airman Millea is doing the same thing at Red Flag that she did for real supporting the 493d Fighter Squadron during Baltic Air Policing. The training our intel analysts receive at Red Flag is directly applicable to the myriad of real world operations our Air Force is executing world-wide."