Buddy Wing 15-4: ROKAF, USAF ready together

by Senior Airman Katrina Heikkinen, 8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Kunsan Air Base

KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea  -- Wolf Pack pilots practiced combined flying operations with their ROK Air Force counterparts during Exercise Buddy Wing 15-4 here, June 1 to 5.

During this iteration of Buddy Wing, the 8th Fighter Wing hosted Airmen from the 123rd Tactical Fighter Squadron, 20th Fighter Wing, Seosan Air Base, to train alongside the Wolf Pack's 35th Fighter Squadron as they sharpened their air combat capabilities together at Kunsan.

"This is my first Buddy Wing, and I gained a lot of insight on how the U.S. and ROK air forces integrate together," said 1st Lt. Brad Leffler, 35th FS F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot. "We train and work together, and we also learn from our strengths and weaknesses. If the time comes to take the fight north, we will work better as a combined force."

During Buddy Wing, the two countries' pilots operated as one force as they integrated mission planning, briefing, flying and debriefing together, while practicing air-to-air and air-to-ground tactics.

"We may operate differently during the execution of various formations, but we train on very similar tactics," Leffler said. "At the end of the day, we all work together to accomplish the same mission. The fundamental purpose of [ROK and U.S. Air Force] practicing together is to tighten up our combined wartime readiness."

Capt. Bong Seop Kim, 123rd TFS KF-16 Fighting Falcon pilot, discussed how Buddy Wing 15-4 provided a great opportunity for ROKAF and U.S. Air Force pilots to exchange knowledge on their tactics and weapons system posture.

"When we work together as a combined military, we can exert such power that enables us to always be ready," Kim said. "We may face obstacles, to include the language barrier and other challenges during combined operations, but we overcome these barriers through continued discussions and understanding each other's differences and cultures."

According to Capt. Matthew Kimmel, 35th FS F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot and Buddy Wing 15-4 project officer, an additional aspect of strengthening combined, allied military operations is enhancing personal partnerships.

"This exercise provided not only the tactical integration with our counterparts, but also provided an opportunity to create new friendships as we - the U.S. Air Force and ROKAF - got to know each other at various social events outside of the flying operations here," he said.

Kim added how working and spending time together increases interoperability and combat capabilities.

"As two countries, we create and carry out combined operations to deter the same enemy," Kim said. "By coordinating with each other through programs such as this Buddy Wing training as well as other combined operations, these experiences add to the success of combined operations and the continued success of the ROK-U.S. Alliance."

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