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American, Korean engineers ‘cement’ friendship

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jeff Szczechowski
  • 455th Expeditionary Operations Group Pubic Affairs
Two old friends got together on the flightline here recently, and the result is an expanded strategic airlift ramp that will significantly enhance current operations. It will also serve as a key enabler for a major airfield military construction, refurbishment and replacement project that will begin soon.

The 455th Expeditionary Operations Group’s civil engineer flight Airmen and the South Korean army’s 100th Korean Engineer Corps soldiers worked on a project that increased parking space for wide-body aircraft and provided them with more room to maneuver. The added concrete surface will allow critical aircraft arrivals and departures to continue uninterrupted, while significant airfield construction occurs later in the year.

For one month, American Airmen and Korean soldiers worked shoulder-to-shoulder under the hot sun, pouring, forming and finishing about 76,000 square feet of concrete, for what is dubbed the “echo octagon.”

Tech. Sgt. Jason Kreutzer, noncommissioned officer in charge of airfield projects for the civil engineer flight, said the Korean engineers were an invaluable force multiplier. He said that the smaller group of Americans toiled away right alongside their Korean counterparts and also offered some technical support.

“(The Koreans) are real hard workers,” Sergeant Kreutzer said. “We only have 12 (Airmen) in our flight, and sometimes we only have five or six out here because of other projects, so the (Korean soldiers were) a real key to making this project a success.”

Capt. Yoon Hyun Ho, 1st Company commander for the100th Engineer Corps, said the project has given his unit a chance to demonstrate their technical and engineering skills to their American partners. He said it also gives his troops a chance to learn how to use some of the Air Force’s construction equipment.

“We have the people, the skill and the desire but sometimes not all the equipment,” he said.

Sergeant Kim Jung Hwan, an interpreter with the 100th Engineer Corps, said it has been a good experience working with American allies.

“We are enjoying this,” he said. “Working with the (Airmen) is a good time. And, it’s good that we have learned about some of their equipment and how to use it.”

Sergeant Hwan said his troops are pouring “a lot of concrete,” often working right through lunch so that they can complete this project.

“We are so busy; we have to change our lunch schedule,” he said. “When we pour, we can not stop. We have to finish, or the concrete would dry.”

Although the Air Force civil engineers and the Korean engineers have helped each other in the past, this is the first large-scale coalition enterprise that the two have accomplished together here, said 1st Lt. Jason Riebel, civil engineer flight commander. He said that it has “been an amazing collaborative effort.”

Captain Yoon said being a part of Operation Enduring Freedom is meaningful to him for several reasons.

“We are a friend of the United States, so we (came) here to help them,” he said. “This effort will help to stop terrorism. Also, because of the situation in our own homeland (where North and South Korea remain divided more than 50 years after the official end of the Korean War), we can relate to the people being separated here, and we want to help keep Afghanistan unified.”

Off the ramp, the two units have “struck up a great camaraderie,” Sergeant Kreutzer said. The Korean soldiers have invited the Airmen for several meals at their Korean dining facility, and the two outfits have even squared off for a game of softball at the Korean compound.

The construction work officially ended May 27.