Special forces join combined planning operation

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Michael Farris
  • 353rd Special Operations Group Public Affairs
Members of the 353rd Special Operations Group, Kadena Air Base, Japan, joined with members of South Korea's Special Warfare Command here recently to plan the critical first few days of a potential conflict on the Korean Peninsula.

For two weeks, planners, flight crews and intelligence experts reviewed everything from flight routes and aircraft configurations to air refueling tracks and army ground movements.

This combined planning operation was unique, because for the first time U.S. special operators flew to Korean army special forces brigades to plan wartime missions. Additionally, the planning included the expertise of several specialists and aircrew members who would actually carry out the wartime assignment.

Teams developed and reviewed each of the missions they would perform in the event of a major crisis. Aircrews who fly the MC-130H Combat Talon II, the MC-130P Combat Shadow and the U.S. Army's MH-47 Chinook worked with their Korean counterparts and Korean army special forces to create feasible designs.

"Each year the operations plan changes slightly," said Maj. Bae Gyung-Guen. "Korea's Special Warfare Command wants to make sure there are no misunderstandings between the aircrews and jumpers. That's the greatest value of this operation."

Master Sgt. Dave Beacham, a loadmaster with the 1st Special Operations Squadron, and riggers of Korea's Special Warfare Command worked together to solve a loose cargo problem by redesigning a bundle tie-down method.

"We faced the problem of resupply bundles bouncing around the inside of the plane if they weren't tied down," he said. "We had to devise a way to secure them to the floor of the plane, yet allow them to quickly be cut away for aerial delivery to ground troops."

Planning joint operations among different services, a challenge inherent to all special operations, becomes complicated in an environment involving forces from two countries and multiple services, said Maj. Mike Semenov, 1st SOS, who served as mission commander. Fortunately, according to Semenov, both U.S. and Korean special operators overcame the challenges of language and culture.

"This operation is an excellent vehicle for the exchange of ideas and allows both sides to better understand how each other does business," he said. "There's no substitute for familiarity and that responsiveness remains the cornerstone of our success.

"During this operation, we're able to bring together, in a combined/joint setting, the planners, operators and intelligence support from both countries to produce the best possible plans," said Semenov.

Each stage of the planning process takes into consideration air defenses and assets of the enemy. One tool planners use to create missions is the portable flight planning system.

"The system is a suite of mission planning programs that significantly cuts down the time it takes to plan a mission," said Capt. Eric Espino, a navigator with the 17th SOS.

After plugging in a location and a destination, the flight planning system allows the user to develop flight routes, calculate flight times, fuel requirements and print flight charts.

"We can also tweak the flight route to avoid enemy threats or unfavorable terrain," Espino said.

Crews spent days perfecting their routes and working closely with their Korean counterparts.

"We spend a great deal of time and effort planning for a conflict we hope will never occur," said Semenov. "But both U.S. and Korean special operation forces will be ready to execute our mission if called upon." (Courtesy Air Force Special Operations Command News Service)