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Intelligence flight takes trip to 'petting zoo'

U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 366th Operations Support Squadron, take a tour of the Threat Training Facility at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Jan. 22, 2013. The facility received the nickname “the petting zoo” because of the unusual freedom to handle and even sit inside the equipment. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Heather Hayward)

U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 366th Operations Support Squadron, take a tour of the Threat Training Facility at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Jan. 22, 2013. The facility received the nickname “the petting zoo” because of the unusual freedom to handle and even sit inside the equipment. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Heather Hayward)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Dean Smith, 366th Operations Support Squadron intelligence flight commander, points out a group of aircraft during exercise Red Flag 13-2, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Jan. 22, 2013. Red Flag is a realistic combat training exercise involving the air forces of the United States and its allies. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Heather Hayward)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Dean Smith, 366th Operations Support Squadron intelligence flight commander, points out a group of aircraft during exercise Red Flag 13-2, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Jan. 22, 2013. Red Flag is a realistic combat training exercise involving the air forces of the United States and its allies. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Heather Hayward)

U.S. Air Force Maj. Frank Dillard, 366th Operations Support Squadron senior intelligence officer, shows Airman First Class Joshua Walloga, 366th OSS targeteer, and Senior Airman Anthony Werner, 366th OSS operations intelligence journeyman, a piece of equipment, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Jan. 22, 2013. The airmen were given the chance to see, handle and even sit in the equipment they learned about. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Heather Hayward)

U.S. Air Force Maj. Frank Dillard, 366th Operations Support Squadron senior intelligence officer, shows Airman First Class Joshua Walloga, 366th OSS targeteer, and Senior Airman Anthony Werner, 366th OSS operations intelligence journeyman, a piece of equipment, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Jan. 22, 2013. The airmen were given the chance to see, handle and even sit in the equipment they learned about. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Heather Hayward)

U.S. Air Force Airman First Class Joshua Walloga, 366th Operations Support Squadron targeteer, aims a rocket propelled grenade-7 during a visit to the Threat Training Facility at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Jan. 22, 2013. The Airmen from the intelligence flight were taken to the petting zoo for an opportunity to see the equipment they learn about in person. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Heather Hayward)

U.S. Air Force Airman First Class Joshua Walloga, 366th Operations Support Squadron targeteer, aims a rocket propelled grenade-7 during a visit to the Threat Training Facility at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Jan. 22, 2013. The Airmen from the intelligence flight were taken to the petting zoo for an opportunity to see the equipment they learn about in person. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Heather Hayward)

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- When most units arrive to participate in Red Flag 13-2, they usually begin by setting up their temporary workstations and finding appropriate lodging in preparation to participate in a unique training exercise.

However, Airmen from the 366th Operations Support Squadron decided to jump right into training and visit the Threat Training Facility.

The facility allows Airmen the unusual freedom to handle and even sit inside equipment which has led to it being nicknamed, "The Petting Zoo."

"The ability to have a hands-on experience provides a better training environment, because the Airmen are able to see the equipment they work with in person," said Capt. Dean Smith, 366th OSS intelligence flight commander. "It's easy to talk about a subject or a threat and maybe even show pictures, but when we can put our hands on it and see it up close, it gives us a better appreciation for the training we have had."

The facility determines the capabilities and shortcomings of enemy weapon systems, with the primary focus on enemy aircraft, anti-aircraft systems and tanks.

"We learn about a lot of these different systems at work but we don't actually get to go see them and see how big they are and what they look like compared to a jet or flying at someone," said Senior Airman Anthony Werner, 366th OSS operations intelligence journeyman. "Being able to be hands-on gives me a better idea of how things operate."

The Airmen of the intelligence flight are responsible for identifying and providing threat data as well as targets.

"I would gauge Red Flag as a very integral and critical portion to our unit's training and our ability to effectively overcome different challenges," Smith said. "I think it's very beneficial for our coalition partners to participate. It gives them a good chance to see how we as the United States execute tactics in our operations."