ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam – After a grueling week of training, Airmen of the Royal Australian Air Force, Republic of Korea Air Force, Republic of Singapore Air Force and U.S. Air Force, concluded exercise Silver Flag April 25, at Andersen Air Force Base.
The weeklong exercise, led by 554th RED HORSE Squadron engineers, is designed to build partnerships and promote interoperability through the equitable exchange of civil engineer-related information.
“Silver Flag is a contingency Civil Engineering and Services-focused base recovery exercise,” said Master Sgt. Gary Schoenhals, 554th RED HORSE section chief of operational support. “In a critical situation, we need to be able to repair facilities and the airfield as well as perform all contingency-type functions that would be needed. For the wing commander, getting an airfield up and running is a top priority, and it’s up to the civil engineers to make sure that happens. That’s what we’re testing here and why it’s so important.”
By training together during hands-on tasks, subject-matter experts overcame all sorts of obstacles, including language barriers, to test different capabilities such as airfield recovery, explosive ordnance disposal, and emergency management.
Schoenhals said the most important aspect to the training is open communication.
“There are always challenges we must overcome,” he said. “We had translators from squadrons here on Anderson join us on the exercise so that we can communicate what needed to be done throughout all ranks to ensure the mission is complete.”
On the final day of the exercise, the joint nations came together to conduct one final exercise to display all they had learned. Teams faced a simulated aftermath of a base attack and had the mission to repair facilities and pavement to ensure they can return the airfield to safe operations. In this scenario, the engineers were tested a new technique to fill craters and repair a damaged airfield.
“The highpoint of the operation was the airfield damage recovery exercise,” said Shoenhals. “Getting to see the new (Rapid Airfield Damage Recovery) process put into play during this exercise was great because we’re able to see what we’ve learned prior to this get executed along with our partner nations at our side.”
Week-long exercises like Silver Flag come with a lot of challenges and potential setbacks, but the four partner nations came through it all successfully.
“For training like this a lot of work has to go on behind the scenes,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Olson, 554th RED HORSE commander. “This exercise is a high point in Silver Flag, a high point for the 554th RED HORSE, and a high point of the year for the installation. We gain a tremendous amount of knowledge and expertise working together.”