News Search

F-35 maintainers provide fifth-generation airpower at Red Flag

  • Published
  • By Micah Garbarino
  • 388th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah – Hill Airmen recently returned from Red Flag 21-1, a large-scale, highly-complex Air Combat Command exercise in the Nevada desert.

Maintainers from the 34th Fighter Generation Squadron, alongside reservists from the 466th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, deployed 12 F-35A Lightning IIs to Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., from Jan. 25-Feb. 12.

Day and night, the Airmen generated two sets of eight aircraft to meet the large-scale conflict scenarios of Red Flag, where a joint force of 40-50 friendly “Blue Force” aircraft would face off against 50-60 enemy “Red Force” aircraft.

The Airmen didn’t lose a single F-35A combat sortie to a maintenance issue. 

One of the young maintainers gaining valuable deployment experience at Red Flag is Airman 1st Class Micah Ferguson, an F-35A crew chief from Martinsville, Ohio.

“Every morning I grab my tools and head out to my jet. We’re launching jets and then taking care of any issues when they return, getting them ready for the night crew’s mission,” Ferguson said. “There’s a lot more time here for various training. I’ve been able to help inspect engine intakes and learn contingency operations like single-Airmen launches.”

Red Flag has also allowed the younger Airmen in the squadron to see the “bigger Air Force picture, better understand the F-35’s mission,” Ferguson said. That includes traditional reservists from the 419th Fighter Wing, who get valuable time-on-task during deployments like Red Flag. 

This was the first Red Flag experience for Staff Sgt. Amanda Herman, an F-35 weapons loader in the 419th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. Herman is a part-time reservist who also works full time as a police officer for Layton City.  

“Red Flag really touches on the teamwork aspect of our work,” Herman said. “When reservists deploy with the F-35, we deploy right alongside the active duty, so this gave us a window into that experience. It’s a chance to work out any kinks so that future operations will be smooth sailing. This was a huge learning opportunity, so I soaked up as much knowledge as I could.”