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Red Flag provides refined boom instructor training

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Tech. Sgt. Chris Yontz, 349th Air Refueling Squadron instructor boom operator, provides feedback to Senior Airman Luke Emery, 349th ARS boom operator, over the Nevada Test and Training Range, following an in-flight refueling during Red Flag-Nellis 18-1, Feb. 8, 2018. Emery is preparing to enter the Central Flight Instructor Course, a boom operator training milestone, held at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Daniel de La Fé)

Boom operator

Senior Airman Luke Emery, 349th Air Refueling Squadron boom operator, uses a flashlight to read over boom operator checklist procedures prior to aerial refueling over the Nevada Test and Training Range during Red Flag-Nellis 18-1, Feb. 8, 2018. The 349th ARS deployed two full KC-135 Stratotanker crews to Nellis Air Force Base to practice combat maneuvers and provide aerial refueling capabilities throughout the exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Daniel de La Fé)

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. – McConnell air crews are focusing on developing air refueling skills for their youngest boom operators at the Air Force’s premier air-to-air exercise, Red Flag 18-1, which kicked off at Nellis AFB nearly two weeks ago and continues through Friday.

The crews are using the exercise as a development opportunity for young boom operators before they head to the Central Flight Instructor Course at Altus AFB, Oklahoma, an aerial refueling instructor training course.

“We’re here to practice and train our new guys,” said Tech. Sgt. Chris Yontz, 348th Air Refueling Squadron boom operator and former CFIC instructor. “Red Flag provides us with opportunities to focus on pushing our younger Airmen.”

Senior Airman Luke Emery, 349th ARS boom operator, normally supports McConnell’s global mission set as a primary boom operator on the KC-135 Stratotanker. At Red Flag, Yontz and Emery swapped roles to help develop the junior boom operator’s pre-CFIC training program before he joins the course in two months.

“My goal is to get three or four more flights with him,” Yontz said. “It’s probably the hardest training he will have to go through as a boom.”

Instructor training varies significantly from initial boom operator training, and Emery utilizes Yontz’s knowledge to build upon his baseline understanding.

“Its more than going through the checklist,” Emery said. “You have to understand the ‘why’ behind every process.”

Red Flag allows boom operators to see and feel the impact they have on the mission because they are attached to the whole process from beginning to end.

“It’s very fast paced,” Emery said. “It’s not just us; we’re getting touches with every aircraft. Everything is coming together, and it shows you what war is really going to be like.”

Red Flag is more than “just another day at the office” for McConnell crews. It provides them with the opportunity to create their own training areas and focus on specific aspects of their trade while enabling operational training for receivers over the Nevada Test and Training Range.