PACAF commander visits Wolf Pack for last time
8/2/2012 - KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- The Pacific Air Forces' four-star commander visited Kunsan Air Base a final time before he retires later this year.
Gen. Gary North, a two-time Wolf Pack member, visited with Airmen here July 16 to 18 to highlight the importance of the 8th Fighter Wing's mission.
"It's a critical mission -- every Airman who comes in knows it. There is a threat north of the DMZ," said the general. "The most important thing we do is be ready to carry it out.
"You have to be prepared to defend the base, accept follow-on forces, and take the fight north," he added. "This mission is ingrained in every Airman the minute they step off the airplane until they step back on."
North was first stationed at Kunsan in 1978 as an F-4 Phantom II weapons systems officer with the 35th Fighter Squadron, and again in 1999 as the wing's "Wolf 38." He said it was a fitting end to his tour to visit the very base where he started his tactical career.
The general said it was a privilege to be back at the Wolf Pack, and he was very proud of the Airmen here. He added that it was great to see the growth of the nation each time he visited and to see the ambition of the Korean people as they "rightfully take their place in a growing economic environment."
He also appreciated the opportunity to continue building a positive relationship between the U.S. military and civilian Republic of Korea counterparts.
"The community partners understand the stability and the security the base brings," said North. "Peace and prosperity here on the peninsula have been enabled by the strong ROK-US relationship for more than 60 years, so this is very important.
"The cultural understanding from us as Americans to our Korean hosts, and for them to understand our mission set here, is very important," he added.
During his visit, North took his last flights with the Wolf Pack in the F-16 Fighting Falcon. He then took the opportunity July 18 to have breakfast and talk with 8th FW Airmen.
"Breakfasts like this are a good idea because it shows Airmen and NCOs that their leadership cares about them," said Staff Sgt. Jessica Butler, 8th Medical Support Squadron lab technician. "The general came across as very friendly and down to earth. It's good when leaders take their time to show they want to hear what's on our minds."
After the meal, the general presented 30-year service pins to five Korean civilians he developed ties with over his two assignments at Kunsan, and then toured the weapons storage area, command post and Wolf Pack Fitness Center before conducting an Airman's Call.
He said leadership at all levels, including the U.S. Forces Korea and Pacific Command commanders, depend heavily on Wolf Pack Airmen being "ready to fight tonight."
"Each Airman represents the very finest our nation brings and the finest our Air Force brings," North said. "The advances that we make here every year are dramatic and help promote regional stability and security."
As last words of advice, North encouraged Airmen to get out and experience the environment around them.
"As a remote tour, this environment enables Airmen to grow professionally and personally," he said. "Learn more about the culture, about the nation in which you are serving, and you will be a better Airman. There's no place in the Air Force like the Wolf Pack."