News: Range division clears the way for exercises
Story by Airman 1st Class Zachary Perras
EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska - In the backwoods of Eielson Air Force Base rests the Yukon Training Area, a portion of the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex that covers 181 square miles of Eielson’s territory.
Because of this, Eielson has a dedicated team of individuals who maintain this portion of the JPARC so it can be used to its full potential.
This area, used during exercises such as RED FLAG-Alaska, allows pilots the capability to perform aerial combat training, from strafe runs on fake runways to dropping live and inert bombs on impact areas.
Airman 1st Class Brandon Larsen, 353rd Combat Training Squadron range division quality assurance evaluator, said the range division plays a large role not only in support, but also the planning and execution of multinational large force exercises.
The range division, Larsen explained, is responsible for working with joint partners to make realistic threats possible.
Equipment used includes the UV Mallina simulator/stimulator, which emulates the UV signature of surface-to-air- missile rocket motors, and the GTR-18 Smokey Sam, which visually simulates the launch of SAMs.
“When a participant comes through and needs assistance with [simulated] threats, we … facilitate whatever they need,” he said. “We can take out the Mallina and Smokey Sam and ... engage them for different scenarios.”
Even when Eielson is not hosting exercises, the range division continues its dynamic functionality. As QAE, Larsen evaluates government contractors and their sites for any discrepancies to ensure sites are properly upheld.
“Our main mission is Red Flag and similar exercises – that’s what we’re all about,” said Larsen. “So even while the exercises aren’t running, we still stay active and make sure the range is cared for and looked after.”
On top of this, one responsibility Larsen handles in particular is clearing the range, which happens both in and out of exercises. Since part of the range is open to civilians for recreation, this means visually inspecting multiple locations to confirm no one is in a danger zone or impact area during critical time periods.
“Training here, especially during Red Flag … starts with clearing the range,” he said. “If the training doesn’t happen, a lot of time and money is wasted.”
Due to the high volume of traffic during exercises, Larsen said range clearing is critical for success.
“When I go out and clear the range, it’s so the pilots can drop bombs safely,” Larsen said. “If the range isn’t cleared, pilots can’t drop. If pilots can’t drop, they can’t get the training they specifically came here for.”
Visiting units can rest assured they will complete their mission of getting the best training possible because of the necessary tools provided by the 353rd CTS range division.
By creating a safe environment on the Yukon Training Area, this unit fits not only into the big picture mission of the 353rd CTS, but also plays a major role in enabling combat air power to train in one of the most diverse areas in the world.