Redeyes fly in Korean skies
KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Making their way from Aurora, Colo., more than 200 Airmen and F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 140th Wing, Colorado Air National Guard touched down at Kunsan AB in February as part of a rotational Theater Security Package.
For many of the Colorado Airmen, this is their first visit to the ROK as they take part in the routine deployment of fighter squadrons, fuel tankers, support personnel and equipment meant to augment U.S. forces stationed across the Asia-Pacific region, also referred to as a TSP.
"Over the past 12 years, our wing has deployed to the Middle East routinely, however, this time the 120th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron and 120th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Unit have deployed as part of a TSP to South Korea," said Lt. Col. Mitchell Neff, 120th EFS commander. "We are here to integrate with the 8th Fighter Wing as part of Armistice operations on the peninsula."
For three to four months, the "Redeyes" will be integrating their operations with those of the 8th FW's Wolf Pack and the Republic of Korea Air Force 38th Fighter Group.
Since March 2004, deployments mirroring the Redeyes' have been an integral part of U.S. Pacific Command's combat capable air forces, which are postured for averting threats to regional security and stability.
"We are here to deter, but if called upon, we will defend South Korea," added Neff.
With units deploying to Guam, Japan, and South Korea, these movements underscore the U.S. commitment to regional partners and U.S. security obligations.
"The tempo is fairly rapid here as personnel rotate in and out of the peninsula daily," said Neff. "It requires everyone to hit the ground running to be ready to 'fight tonight.'"
As the only base in the ROK that houses U.S. and ROKAF flying squadrons, the deployment of rotational fighters to Kunsan AB also provides unique possibilities to integrate various forces into combined bilateral training.
"There are many training opportunities we can capitalize on while deployed to Kunsan," said Neff. "We've been able to integrate with the 8th FW in their operational readiness exercises and understand how we would take part in combat operations. In addition to that, we have successfully flown with the 38th Fighter Group's 111th Fighter Squadron in a large force employment exercise."
With the completion of Exercise Beverly Midnight 15-2, Kunsan's first of multiple OREs this year, the Redeyes have already received invaluable training to impart on their fellow Buckley Airmen.
"Our exercises back home are a bit different from the ones here at Kunsan, mostly due to time constraints," said Senior Airman Dusty Alynn, 120th Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chief. "At home our exercises last four days and we only do them once every couple of years. There is a lot thrown at us in a short amount of time, which is why it's good to see how other units conduct their training and base operations."
In addition to maintaining readiness, base operations at Kunsan include the acceptance of follow-on forces, with the guardsmen being a welcomed addition to the Wolf Pack family.
"I cannot even put into words how thrilled I am with the people that I have met here," said Alynn. "Every single individual that I have come across is so overwhelmingly helpful, kind, friendly and greets us with open arms. The family that has been created here is so amazing."
For both the Redeyes and the Wolf Pack, living, training and flying together has been beneficial as they aid one another in deterring aggression on the Korean Peninsula.
"The experience is not over yet, but so far it has been a very good one," added Neff. "For our young, inexperienced Airmen, this deployment is great because they can get the experience they need for future deployments and exercises, while also interacting with another culture. We can train like we fight as we maintain stability in the region."