Checkered Flag 17-1 complete

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Solomon Cook
  • 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
The 325th Air Expeditionary Wing, comprised of various maintenance, logistics readiness, and fighter squadrons, completed its mission of simulating a large-scale aerial total force integration exercise Dec. 5-16, 2016. Involving more than 90 aircraft and more than 800 personnel, Checkered Flag 17-1 lasted two weeks.

“The biggest success of the exercise is the integration piece,” said Col. Randy Cason 44th Fighter Group commander and Air Expeditionary Wing commander. “That’s why we do this – it’s the ability to operate together. Mixing fourth-gen and fifth-gen, it’s always challenging for the fourth-gen because they can’t see the fifth-gen airplanes, yet they have to fight with them and work with them. In order to do this, it requires a lot of communication and coordination. We set expectations, we build plans, we execute and we meet those expectations. It’s something easy to say in a few sentences, but it’s a very challenging thing to do airborne moving 500 miles per hour. More efficient integration means more capable combat teams.”

Tyndall facilitated this exercise in numerous ways, from planning to logistics and force support, all the while conducting a Combat Archer Weapon Systems Evaluation Program. Tyndall leadership had the foresight to use both events concurrently to pool resources, personnel and assets allowing a fiscally responsible operation.

“One of the tremendous benefits of this exercise is that it allows the focusing on tactical execution,” Cason said. “Any time a large air training event occurs, there are a lot of administrative requirements; planning, scenario orchestration and concerns about restrictions within the training airspace.”

Cason credited Tyndall’s training airspace for the cost-saving success of Checkered Flag because fighters do not have to maneuver around civilian air traffic, saving time and money. “It’s more ‘bang for your buck,’” Cason said.

One of the goals of the exercise was to be ready at a moment’s notice. “The purpose of the exercise is to prepare a large-scale, aerial total force integration exercise for any contingency that may arise,” Cason said.

“Checkered Flag can take on many forms,” Cason said. “It usually conforms into another training exercise that is occurring. It just so happens that this particular Checkered Flag occurs at Tyndall and runs concurrently with a Weapon Systems Evaluation Program.”

With the increase in operations tempo, members of the 325th Operations Group in RAPCON, ground controllers and tower personnel, worked tirelessly throughout Checkered Flag 17-1 to ensure people and aircraft conducted exercise operations in a safe, controlled environment.

“Adding more aircraft to an already busy flightline increases the difficulty, but our controllers are trained to adapt and handle the increased workload,” said Tech. Sgt. Christopher Coffey, 325th Operations Support Squadron air traffic control watch supervisor. “Having an increased number of aircraft and condensing them into a smaller time-frame makes the operations tempo significantly higher and more difficult.”

Coffey said one benefit of the exercise was that every unit is pushed into a “combat mindset.” The exercise helped build a more cohesive warfighting unit and strengthened his team, Coffey said.

The participants in the exercise noted the professionalism of the 325th OG during the influx of traffic maintaining good order.

“Airmen of Tyndall had the opportunity to produce the aircraft and enable the flightline to operate smoothly,” Cason said. “They have done an outstanding job, as demonstrated by the large amount of flying we have done.”

Without fuel for aircraft and vehicles, the exercise would have come to a standstill. This is where the 325th Logistics Readiness Squadron kept planes gassed-up and moving forward.

“The 325th LRS Fuels Flight dispensed close to 2 million gallons of jet fuel with additives to over 90 aircraft, fueling more than 1,300 times during Checkered Flag 17-1,” said Capt. Christopher Santangelo, 325th LRS commander. “Additionally, we dispensed roughly 5,200 gallons of gasoline unleaded regular and 4,400 gallons of diesel to government vehicles via our two service stations.”

Ensuring aircraft were fueled was only part of the puzzle. To make certain the mission was a success the Air Force’s most valued asset – the Airman, also needed fuel.

During the exercise, the Tyndall’s Berg-Liles Dining Facility opened their doors to feed the Airmen while on the Temporary Duty Assignment here at Tyndall.

“Our facility managers work hard to prepare for events such as Checkered Flag to ensure that our folks are trained and ready for increased customer flow and workloads,” said Maj. Rose Englebert, 325th Force Support Squadron commander.

In addition to making sure the more than 800 TDY Airmen were fed, the 325th FSS also facilitated the exercise’s lodging needs.

“Pressure on the facility is drastically increased for the lodging reservations desk,” Englebert said. “Constant changes in reservations increases the workload approximately 30 percent, as more than 500 Checkered Flag participants are housed in contract quarters off-base.”

As the exercise completed, members of Tyndall leadership reflected on the success of the Airmen.

“I couldn’t be more proud of Team Tyndall and its Airmen,” Cason said. “Team Tyndall, the base as a whole, has supported all the participants who have come from off-station. This was done with a high degree of professionalism, as I always expect.”