Joint Coalition roars through Max Thunder
KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Airmen from the Department of Defense and Republic of Korea joined forces to showcase and exercise its air power during the 12th Max Thunder exercise at Gwangju Air Base, ROK, April 11-25, 2014.
The exercise brought a brotherhood of Airmen together not only to showcase their skills, but also learn and develop new ones. The exercise included more than 600 deployed DoD personnel and over 150 Kunsan Airmen.
"What we have here is a unique situation when we are having ROKAF work with our Marines and our Navy in joint strike packages or any kind of exercise movement," said Lt. Col. Henry Jeffress, 80th Fighter Squadron director of operations. "It gives a unique flavor and ups the game bit. ... Everyone here is trying to get better."
The event fosters bilateral aerial training by replicating dog fights, quick alerts, close air support missions and the overall theme of employing and deploying a joint coalition and overcoming obstacles.
"Our (team) all around stepped up and they met the challenges of having all these aircraft on the ramp launching at one time, numerous aircraft in the air space, challenges from language difficulties, and somehow we are almost through," said Jeffress. "We have overcome it and learned. We have gotten better"
Sitting on the Gwangju tarmac were the multitude of branches and F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 8th Fighter Wing, and 51st Fighter Wing, F-18 Hornets from Marine Air Group 12, EA-18G Growlers from US Seventh Fleet, C-130 Hercules from the 374th Airlift Wing, F-15C Eagles and E-3B Sentry's from the 18th Wing and numerous ROKAF aircraft and accompanying support personnel.
The exercise planners hope to improve Airmen such as Staff Sgt. Alex Tamsen, 80th Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chief, by giving experience that will minimize potential combat losses, demonstrate interoperability between the partner countries and provide training for future ROKAF and U.S. Red Flag participants.
"We come out here every day, we crush the sorties, we crush the mission and we do it all the time," said Tamsen. "We make sure these jets get up in the air and do their mission, safely."
For Tamsen and many of the Airmen the exercise came to a close on the 25th, but the knowledge learned from the 12th Max Thunder will follow them throughout future assignments and deployments.
"I am proud of the attitude that was displayed, and the professionalism that I saw," said Jeffress. "I am extremely impressed by what we were able to accomplish because there were a lot of lessons learned by both sides, and it only makes us better. We will all leave here better Airmen and better able and capable to do our job in the future."