JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska - Imagine boarding a C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft and making the flight across the Atlantic Ocean to a place where they speak a language that isn’t your native language. This isn’t your normal U.S. Air Force deployment, but actually a Polish Air Force deployment to Alaska to participate in Red Flag-Alaska.
According to the Red Flag-Alaska fact sheet, Red Flag is a Pacific Air Forces-sponsored, Joint National Training Capability-accredited exercise. The goal of Red Flag-Alaska is to provide each aircrew with these first vital missions, increasing their chances of survival in combat environments.
This Red Flag-Alaska hosted multiple firsts for the Polish Air Force representatives. This was the first time a Polish crew on a C-130 crossed the North Atlantic to the east coast and from there to Alaska. It is also the first time they have participated in Red Flag.
“I expect to get training in flying in the mountainous areas … and to make good friends with United States, Japanese, Australian and German air forces,” said Polish Air Force Maj. Jaroslaw Gozdalski , C-130 Hercules pilot and commander.
According to Polish Air Force Capt. Slawomir Lis, C-130 navigator, because of the similar terrain, with the mountains and valleys Alaska has to offer; it provides the perfect place for the C-130 crew to practice for their mission they have in Afghanistan.
“For me, it’s a completely new experience, flying in the tall mountains in Alaska,” Slawomir said.
Flying isn’t the only skill that was enhanced at Red Flag.
“We fly around the world and everything is in English, but that isn’t our first language so it is also good language training,” Gozdalski said.
Another side of the training the airmen from Poland received was to work with equipment they normally wouldn’t get to operate.
“This was the first opportunity to check our RVR (runway visual range) system and mark system in real situations because the ranges are equipped with emitters that simulate real threats and this is the first time we can use this equipment and see how it works against the real threat,” Gozdalski said.
They were also able to practice maneuvers to try to evade simulated ground to air missiles all while sharing the air space with the U.S., German, Japanese and Australian forces.
“A lot of aircraft flying together and not crashing is a very difficult thing to do,” Gozdalski said.
The different countries participating in Red Flag gave countries an opportunity to train with a group they may never have had the chance to train with before.
“I am very happy to have the experience of flying in groups from different countries, different languages and different procedures,” Lis said.
“The best thing about Red Flag is the experience gained and the different way of looking at things,” said Polish Air Force 1st Lt. Tomasz Kozlowski, C-130 co-pilot.