F-35A maintenance sparks Red Flag 17-1

January 31, 2017 (by A1C Nathan Byrnes) – The debut of the F-35A Lightning II at Red Flag has afforded the pilots and maintainers of the aircraft a chance to be a part of the Air Force’s premier air-to-air combat training exercise.

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Maintainers from the 419th and 388th FW’s Hill AFB, conduct preflight checks on an F-35A Lightning II during Red Flag 17-1 at Nellis AFB on January 24, 2017. [USAF photo A1C Nathan Byrnes]

For Airmen involved with the F-35, Red Flag 17-1 provides a unique type of training that prepares them to be fully mission ready.

“It’s been great coming here and doing something that some of us haven’t necessarily done before,” said Senior Airman John Girtman, an F-35A avionics systems specialist assigned to the 388th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. “It gives us the ability to exercise our strength. Being able to work in an environment like Red Flag and seeing all of our training and hard work from back home come to fruition is extremely beneficial.”

A major part of the success so far of the F-35 aircrew can be contributed to the planning and training that went into getting prepared for Red Flag 17-1.

“Before we came out to the exercise we sat down and came up with a game plan as to what we may encounter or any issues we might face and how we can overcome those challenges,” said Staff Sgt. Brandon Bailey, a 388th AMXS crew chief.

“Now that we are here, the challenges we face during Red Flag helps us see what kind of challenges we might be faced with in a deployed environment and how we can overcome those,” Bailey said. “The things we learn during this exercise will allow us to progress and get better.”

Red Flag exercises are fast-paced and provide aircrews the experience of multiple, intensive air combat sorties in the safety of a training environment.

“Here at Red Flag there is a great sense of urgency,” said Airman 1st Class Anhre Bourgeois, a 388th AMXS F-35A weapons troop. “We are always on the go. If it ever came to a real world contingency I think it will be the same thing. Just constantly on the go to get the job done and…

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