FAIRBANKS, Ak - The 18th Aggressor Squadron based at Eielson play an integral part in the Red Flag exercises currently being conducted.
The fate of the F–16 fighter jets, airmen and their families still hangs in a delicate on a delicate balance as the Interior and Alaska's congressional delegation demand answers from the Department of Defense.
For the airmen and crew assigned to the 18th Agressor Squadron at Eielson Air Force Base it is business as usual during Red Flag 12–2.
Their mission: To be the "bad guy," the opposing force, Team Red against coalition forces.
They have done this for years at Eielson but now the question is, will they continue to be here much longer?
Brigadier General James Post III certainly thinks so.
"From our senior leaders, there's no indication that it would do anything other than continue to be advertised as an opportunity for both our U.S. forces and our international participants to come out here and join in those exercises," said Gen. Post.
Red Flags are scheduled for August and again in year 2013, but it may be the 18th Agressor Squadron will fly up from Anchorage in the future as the Air Force makes plans to move them to Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson.
That leaves only the 168th Refueling Wing Alaska Air National Guard active at Eielson.
Will this move essentially close the air base?
When asked by Senator Lisa Murkowski that very question, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said no.
"Take this proposal back to the drawing board and give it the thorough, comprehensive vetting that it must have," Murkowski asked.
"We have no intention of closing down Eielson. It's a very important base for us. It's important for air refueling. It's important in terms of the role that we want to be able to play with regards to the Pacific," Panetta replied.
And yet, the United States Air Force continues to make plans to move the 18th to Anchorage, a money saving reallocation of forces and consolidation of positions.
Other than a refueling pit stop, what role will Eielson play in the military's future?
Congressman Don Young has some ideas.
"My goal is to make sure that if they do decide to move those airplanes, which I believe they're going to do, we need to replace those airplanes, like the AF 35, or make sure we don't allow them to destroy those buildings they are destroying so there is value to the base," said Young.
But there is no guarantee by the Air Force or the Department of Defense that any new squadrons or wings will be positioned at Eielson.
A concern that has Interior residents worried about the loss of a good portion of the local economy.