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509th Bomb Wing maintains a presence to ensure B-2 mission readiness

  • Published
  • By SrA Nash Truitt
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

Airmen with the 509th Bomb Wing participated in Red Flag 23-1, from Jan. 23 to Feb.10 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada to practice mission planning.

Exercise Red Flag 23-1 brings joint and allied forces together in a realistic environment where warfighters can train on mission tactics, from planning to execution. This year, Red Flag included units from four U.S. military branches, as well as from the U.K. and Australia.

Pilots and intelligence troops from the 509th Bomb Wing had the opportunity to hone their mission planning skills for the future, to include strategy and force design. The mission planning cell (MPC) is made up of pilots, mission crews, and intelligence specialists from all participating units and is responsible for planning the entire mission.

This year, several 509th Bomb Wing members lead MPCs as Mission Commanders, Intel Leads or Strike Team Leads. Lt. Col. Andrew Kousgaard, 393rd Bomb Squadron commander said, mission planning cells get firsthand experience communicating with other joint partners and gathering and continuously relaying intelligence to ensure mission capability.

The success of exercises like Red Flag requires Airmen to adapt to different situations and become cohesive with other units at a moment’s notice.

"Modern warfighting is always a team sport. The B-2 can't execute its mission solo,” said Kousgaard. “We always operate as a team, and very often our coalition partners are a critical part of that team.”

The 509th Bomb Wing pilots and intelligence analysts at Exercise Red Flag integrated with fighter and aerial refueler aircrew, command and control teams, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance teams, and combat search and rescue teams to practice planning and executing combat missions together. This opportunity to train together builds familiarity and proficiency needed for real-world integrated deterrence.

“Participating in Red Flag allows intel analysts to get numerous MPC reps in a safe and controlled environment while improving our skill and tradecraft,” said 1st Lt. Emma Pape, 393rd Bomb Squadron officer in charge of intel. “The more practice and MPCs we work, the more confident our analysts will be in their decision-making skills and ability to work through stress.”

Pape and Kousgaard agree the skills the Airmen receive while participating in Red Flag has an important and positive impact on the mission upon their return to Whiteman.

“The experience, confidence, and practice we get from Red Flag is extremely valuable to Airmen readiness for high-end warfighting. Additionally, they bring that experience back to Whiteman to teach and mentor other intel analysts,” said Pape.

Red Flag simulates combat missions, giving participating units the opportunity to learn and fight alongside allies and partners, in a controlled environment. The transfer of skills and lessons learned to current and future Airmen is what keeps the Air Force fresh and lethal in an ever-changing world, Kousgaard said.

“Our adversaries absolutely watch these exercises,” he said. “Continuing to do them year after year shows that we are not taking our foot off the gas when it comes to training and preparing for whatever conflict is in the future. Our adversaries see that we are committed to spending time and treasure practicing, and so do our allies.”