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A U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster aircrew found itself away from the rainy climate of Washington state and into the Florida sunshine to participate in an Air Force exercise that began last week at Eglin Air Force Base.

The C-17 crew, along with a C-5 Galaxy aircrew from Travis Air Force Base in northern California, made the journey from the West Coast to the Gulf Coast to put their aircraft countermeasures to the test.

The aircraft-dispensed flares are used as infrared countermeasures designed to defeat “heat seeking” surface-to-air or air-to-air missiles.

Staff Sgt. Arthur Mendoza, 62nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, climbs a ladder to inspect an engine during a pre-flight check on a McChord Field C-17 Globemaster III on the flight line at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., March 2, 2016. Mendoza traveled with the C-17 aircrew from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., to participate in a flare effectiveness test. Mendoza’s job is to ensure the aircraft is operating the way it should be to ensure safety for the aircraft and crew. (Staff Sgt. Naomi Shipley/Special to The Pulse)

Staff Sgt. Arthur Mendoza, 62nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, climbs a ladder to inspect an engine during a pre-flight check on a McChord Field C-17 Globemaster III on the flight line at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., March 2, 2016. Mendoza traveled with the C-17 aircrew from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., to participate in a flare effectiveness test. Mendoza’s job is to ensure the aircraft is operating the way it should be to ensure safety for the aircraft and crew. (Staff Sgt. Naomi Shipley/Special to The Pulse)

Master Sgt. Justin Hudson, senior test director for the Air Force’s Air Mobility Command, manages and directs operational tests to provide leadership with unbiased feedback in order for them to make well-informed decisions to provide warfighter proven solutions.

“We are overseeing the flare effectiveness test and ensuring flares are operating the way they should be,” said Hudson. “This test is very important because we are constantly trying to outsmart our enemies. These tests ensure our operators are flying with the most up to date countermeasure system.”

Not every aircraft in the Air Force has the flares as a defense countermeasure.

“Typically cargo-carrying aircrafts such as the C-130, C-5 and C-17 carry the flares as a defense countermeasure,” said Hudson. “The flares are vital and enhance mission capabilities by defending the aircraft operators.”

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A C-5 aircraft from Travis Air Force Base, Calif., ejects flares over the Eglin Range March 2, 2016, at Eglin AFB, Fla. (Staff Sgt. Naomi Shipley/Special to The Pulse)

Maj. Mike Motschman, 7th Airlift Squadron C-17 pilot from Washington, has had the flares on his aircraft deploy down range, but stressed more goes into a successful mission than the aircraft countermeasures.

“Part of being aircrew includes knowing all the aircraft systems and how they operate including the flare systems,” said Motschman.

Motschman said there’s a lot of that goes into evading an enemy.

“It’s not just the flares and it’s not just the way the aircraft is flown,” he said. “Training is probably the most important part but they all have to come together.”

After about a month’s worth of testing Hudson and his team determine the results of the test and compose a report to deliver to AMC.

“We identify risks and improvements and determine whether the test was successful or unsuccessful and explain why,” Hudson said.

The team will likely be out at Eglin again next year with the same intentions for their mission: to keep the aircrew safe and to stay ahead of the enemy.

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