149FW Det. 1 facilitates joint training, hosts Texas Red Flag

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Phil Fountain
  • 149th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
For over a quarter of a century, Detachment 1, a subcomponent of the Texas Air National Guard's 149th Fighter Wing, has managed Yankee Range, the northern of two ranges that comprise the McMullen Target Complex, which is part of Naval Air Station Kingsville. The nearly 3,000-acre remote location in McMullen County, Texas, is situated between San Antonio and the Rio Grande Valley.

Yankee Range is primarily used for practice bomb and gun-strafing operations to enable the Air National Guard unit to accomplish its primary federal mission to train combat-ready F-16 pilots for worldwide operations. In addition to being able to accept air-launched munitions from fighter aircraft, the location has the capability to accomplish numerous state training missions as well.

"We're 1 of 13 such ranges throughout the country that are managed by the National Guard," said Capt. Eric Hoopes, commander of Det. 1. "We have maneuver space, are [geographically] positioned to assist with disaster preparedness staging, and have numerous targets and mock villages for both air and ground components to accomplish realistic training."

From May 30-June 1, 2012, Det. 1 hosted a joint service, multinational event called Texas Red Flag, which allowed for aerial and ground maneuvers involving Texas Air and Army Guard personnel, as well as members of the air force of the Czech Republic, one of Texas' counterparts within the National Guard's State Partnership Program.

The exercise allowed the Citizen-Airmen and soldiers to sharpen their combat readiness skills and improve capabilities in order to support civil authorities during times of disaster within the state.

During the activities, participants operated alongside each other for close air support operations with Gunfighter F-16s and practiced insertion and extraction maneuvers into a faux village, known as a military operations in urban terrain site, with Texas Army National Guard helicopters from the 449th Aviation Support Battalion assigned to the Martindale Army Airfield, in San Antonio.

Additionally, C-130H tactical aircraft with the Texas Air National Guard's 136th Airlift Wing at Naval Air Station Fort Worth, Joint Reserve Base, trained on employing counter-measures to evade ground attack during low-altitude combat support missions.

Tactical Air Control Party and Joint Terminal Attack Controllers from the Texas Air National Guard's 147th Air Support Operations Squadron at Houston's Ellington Field received on-the-ground CAS training.

"We integrate air power into the Army commander's ground scheme of maneuver," said Lt. Col. John Olsen, commander of the 147ASOS. In a real-world situation, Olsen, also an F-16 pilot, explained he would "serve as the senior air liaison to the combatant brigade or battalion commander, and two [TACP's and JTAC's] are with each battalion of Army soldiers."

The role of the TACP's and JTAC's is to communicate with the combat pilots from the ground, and "only they are allowed, by law, to clear [the aircraft's] weapon release when close air support is required in close proximity of friendly forces," Olsen added. Additionally, they "coordinate with senior leaders, and can add items to the (Air Tasking Order)."

Additionally, members of the Texas Air National Guard's 149th Communications Flight, a part of the 149th Fighter Wing, established a satellite communications link and live video feed from Det. 1 to the state's National Guard headquarters at Camp Mabry, in Austin.

"This is about facilitating cross-service training, using our money wisely, and increasing efficiencies within the state," said Col. Thomas Duke, director of operations for the Texas Air National Guard and officer-in-charge of the joint operation. "These activities help coordinate training not only for overseas missions, but here at home."

The Texas C-130's can "quickly position personnel and assets throughout the state. In a disaster, the JTACs can use this training to assist with search and rescue," Duke said.