67th FS participates in Red Flag Nellis Published Oct. 29, 2008 By Staff Sgt. Kenya Shiloh 18th Wing Public Affairs NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- Deterring the enemy, protecting friendly forces and completing the mission are just a few of the tasks pilots assigned to the 67th Fighter Squadron accomplish while participating in Red Flag 09-1 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. The 67th Fighter Squadron along with several other Air Force units throughout the United States and Allied countries battled adversaries from the 64th and 65th Aggressor Squadrons in a realistic combat training exercise covering more than 1,500-square miles of the Nevada test and Training Range Oct. 20-31. Approximately 80 aircraft departed Nellis around the clock flying training missions. F-16 Fighting Falcons from Greece and Singapore and EF-18 Hornets from Spain flew with U.S. aircraft such as the F-15s Eagle, A-10 Thunderbolts, KC-135 Stratotankers and the U-2 Dragon Lady participating in the first Red Flag of the fiscal year. "There were some growing pains training with our allies the first few days," said Lt. Col. Lt. Col. Robert Novotny, 67th FS commander. "There's cultural issues, language barriers, proficiency issues, experience level differences, however, tactics-wise, we're pretty similar. This training helps us integrate our differences and work together as a team." This exercise also provides the 67th FS with a different training environment to improve their tactics. "At Kadena, we don't have to worry too much about ranges," said Lt. Col. Michael Bibeau, 67th FS director of operations. "We go 150 miles out over the water to run our sorties. We don't have much of an issue with obstacles; but we also don't have the benefit of flying over mountains and down low where threats are really going to be. We have to take advantage of these opportunities because we just don't have them back home." Colonel Novotny hopes the unit can endure some the stress of flying realistic combat operations on a 24-hour basis against a very robust and capable threat. The unit will also have the opportunity to exercise their surface to air missile defense and determine the best way to integrate their tactics around those threats since they are considered to be the worst type of threats in modern-day warfare to date. "Collectively as a team, we get a no-kidding evaluation of how the squadron is doing," Colonel Novotny said. "I hope that we can learn what our strengths and weaknesses are so that when we leave Red Flag we know where to focus our training when we get back to our home station. As director of operations, Colonel Bibeau can see where we need to focus our training and academics plans and what kind of sorties we need to fly. As a commander, I can determine whether we need to come to more exercises like this or focus our resources in a certain area and evaluate our experience level as a squadron." After the completion of Red Flag, the unit heads to Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., to participate in the Weapons System Evaluation Program, more commonly known as Combat Archer. WESP evaluates the air-to-air weapon system capability of combat aircraft in the Air Force. "It's a long time on the road but it helps us pack up our squadron and deploy like we would in an actual conflict as opposed to just going away for two weeks," Colonel Bibeau said. "By the time resources start going dry and people are getting home sick, you're already on your way home. This way, things are spread out a little bit." So far, the 67th FS commander believes the squadron is doing well as a whole. He said based on the fact that they are a very young squadron; the unit is improving on a daily basis in this challenging situation. "We had a rough start," Colonel Novotny said. "The aggressors are tough, their electronic attack is tough and they've given us a tough problem to solve but you know what, we're getting better. We're better today than we were on Monday and we're improving every day."