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Maintainers lend expertise to Pakistan for Red Flag

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev.-- A Pakistan Air Force crew chief chalks an F-16 upon arrival for Red Flag 10-4 July 16.  The U.S. Air Force is hosting approximately 100 Pakistan Air Force pilots, maintainers and support personnel at Nellis Air Force Base for the world's premier large force employment and integration exercise July 17-31. This is the Pakistan Air Force's first time participating in Red Flag. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Lawrence Crespo)

A Pakistan Air Force crew chief chalks an F-16 upon arrival for Red Flag 10-4 July 16. The U.S. Air Force hosted approximately 100 Pakistan Air Force pilots, maintainers and support personnel at Nellis Air Force Base for the world's premier large force employment and integration exercise July 17-31. This was the Pakistan Air Force's first time participating in Red Flag. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Lawrence Crespo)

TUCSON, Ariz. -- The 162nd Fighter Wing, known for its premier international F-16 training programs, has an advantage when it comes to the development of international partnerships. As an integral part of U.S.-Pakistan relations, the wing was a clear choice to assist the Pakistan Air Force in its Red Flag debut.

Capt. Jason Burns, 162nd aircraft maintenance officer, and Senior Master Sgt. Charles Neal, 162nd maintenance group quality assurance chief, traveled to Pakistan to assist their air force prepare for its first Red Flag exercise at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., July 17-31.

"We flew to Pakistan in early June and our tasking was to safely guide them through the deployment process. We looked at their facilities, tools and equipment and gave them an in-depth presentation on what to expect during the Red Flag deployment," said Sergeant Neal.

Red Flag is conducted on the Nevada Test and Training Range and involves U.S. and allied forces. Exercises involve a variety of interdiction, attack, air superiority, defense suppression, airlift, air refueling and reconnaissance aircraft. It sharpens aerial combat skills by providing realistic training in a combined air, ground and electronic threat environment found on the battlefield.

"It's the whole package. The Air Force provides assistance to invited countries to show how they can come together as a coalition force. They get together and practice going to war so that if they ever have to go, there is no guessing game. Everyone knows how to operate," said Captain Burns.

Coalition air forces are required to be familiar with U.S. Air Force, coalition and Red Flag rules and regulations and other standards. In addition, forces that deploy to Red Flag must perform all aircraft maintenance, being as self-sufficient as they would be in a wartime environment.

To help Pakistan take on the complexities of Red Flag, Burns and Neal brought along a full complement of 162nd maintainers that included Master Sgt. Ruben Perez, Master Sgt. John Lambert II, Maj. James Cobb, Master Sgt. Alfonso Soto, and Chief Master Sgt. Doug Pepiot.

"Some of them have never dealt with our various rules and regulations. The way they manage their military is very different from what you would expect in the Air Force. Our goal was not to change them but to inform them so they can be prepared to fit in with the coalition force during the exercise," said Sergeant Neal.

Hosted by the U.S. Air Force, Red Flag offers a chance for American Airmen and their international counterparts to engage in realistic combat scenarios that draws on both air and ground assets.

"Some of the scenarios involved missing equipment, man down or intruder on the flight line. From a maintenance perspective it was almost like an operational readiness exercise. They performed well and I'm proud to have been a part of that," said Sergeant Neal.

At the conclusion of the exercise the 162nd maintenance team assisted the PAF in their return to Pakistan. The team has a clear understanding that the international friendship developed by the experience will prove to be invaluable.

"The thing I have enjoyed most is working directly with our partners. You can correspond through e-mail on rules and regulations but until you fight together you don't know what everybody is capable of. It's exciting to see them perform well. Some will remain lifelong friends. I really enjoyed the experience," said Neal.