SECAF rolls with the Pack at Kunsan
KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James spent the day interacting with members of the 8th Fighter Wing and ROK Air Force 38th Fighter Group at Kunsan AB, Nov. 22, during her first visit to the Pacific Air Forces area of responsibility.
James' immersion with the Wolf Pack gave her an opportunity to see firsthand how the Airmen of Kunsan contribute to PACAF's mission of theater security cooperation by deterring aggression on the Korean Peninsula, maintaining the ROK-U.S Alliance and committing to the defense of the ROK.
"The mission of Kunsan is critical, and from what I have been able to see so far, the Airmen here at Kunsan are doing a magnificent job," said James. "The Republic of Korea is a key ally for the United States and it is vitally important that we continue to work very closely with the Republic of Korea Forces, just as I have seen here today, for the defense of the Korean Peninsula."
Her visit included briefings on the wing's mission to defend the base, accept follow on forces and take the fight north, as well as the Wolf Pack's ability to generate and sustain the airpower necessary for maintaining stability on the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia.
As the only base in the ROK where U.S. and ROKAF flying units reside together, the secretary had an opportunity to see the unique environment present at Kunsan, one that emphasizes efforts in the pacific to deepen relationships with established partners.
"Kunsan is a terrific base, but it is also austere," said James. "It is an unaccompanied base - they are far from home and that puts special burdens on our Airmen who are based here. But they're doing a great job. They're ready to fight tonight, they are the highest level of readiness that we have in the United States Air Force, and I am very proud of them."
Readiness is a key component of the forward-deployed base and was highlighted for James with demonstrations of Kunsan's base defense strategies and emergency operations by combat-ready Airmen.
Following the demonstrations, James watched a performance by the Sexual Assault Theater Group, a Sexual Assault Prevention and Response initiative unique to Kunsan that provides realistic demonstrations of how sexual assaults can occur and be prevented. James' interaction with Airmen also involved an all call, during which she addressed the concerns of 500 attendees, ranging from potential changes to benefits for Airmen, to the current status of force management.
"I think our Airmen are doing a magnificent job, but I do think our Air Force is under strain," said James. "As I have traveled around the country and traveled around the world, the number one issue that our Airmen talked to me about and asked me about is the down-sizing and the force shaping, the uncertainty surrounding it, and will it be over. My message to Airmen is to hold on, it's going to be over quite soon now."
With the recent conclusion of the fiscal year 2014 force management programs, the news came as a relief for Airmen.
"I believe, and I think all the Airmen would agree with me, we want to move on," added James. "We don't want to continue this down-sizing, we don't want to continue this force-shaping. We want to get completely focused on the task at hand."
Focused is how the Wolf Pack remains, having demonstrated it is ready to fight tonight.
"I want [Airmen in the ROK] to know how grateful I am, and how grateful all of us in Washington are for the magnificent job that they are doing," said James. "Go Wolf Pack!"