Kunsan Airmen prowl sky over Alaska

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Peter Reft
  • 354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Airmen assigned to the 80th Fighter Squadron stationed at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, arrived at Eielson Air Force base here a few days late, but wasted no time in catching up with the rest of Red Flag-Alaska 14-3.

The 80th FS came to Eielson AFB to sharpen their air combat skills and apply their training in the Pacific theater of operations.

"We have a very specific and tailored mission against various threats in the region," said Capt. Jay Waklid, an 80th FS F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot. "Here at Eielson (AFB) you learn to operate in a large-scale combat scenario, we have use of a range where we sometimes drop live munitions and there is also training with infrared emitters, which simulate surface-to-air missiles."

Waklid was thankful for his training with the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps units and he said that his training here would directly translate and carry over to how they would operate in real-world contingencies not only in Asia, but also around the globe.

"No one goes into combat by themselves," Waklid said. "There will be other players who will be able to support us and bring their part to the fight."

An advantage of participating in RF-A is that different units from different military services around the globe come to learn and share practices as one large, cohesive force. RF-A 14-3 saw participants from the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and Air National Guard all working together.

"I get to see how my piece of the puzzle works in the whole bigger picture," Waklid said. "With AWACS aircraft in the air and F-22 Raptors running escort support for my simulated bombing runs, it's really cool to see how a combat scenario would really work. Back home we only get to see a little piece of that puzzle when training."

Waklid and other RF-A participants operate in the exercise as friendly forces while the hosting unit, the 18th Aggressor Squadron, challenges them and pushes their air combat skills to higher levels by simulating enemy tactics.

"It's great," Waklid said. "The threat that they're replicating is more advanced than what I'm used to training with."

Aircraft maintainers and weapons load crews also stay busy during RF-A keeping aircraft mission ready and properly outfitted for each tasking.

"You're limited here on personnel, so the work load is a little tougher," said Staff Sgt. Jesus Virola, a 80th Aircraft Maintenance Unit aircraft armament weapons specialist. "We work long hours to make sure these jets stay in the air, but the time is worth it knowing we get the training we need to be ready for any contingency anywhere we go."

Aircrews and pilots maintain a fast-paced, simulated deployed environment by keeping aircraft flying two sorties per day for two consecutive weeks.

"That's what Red Flag is all about," Waklid said. "It trains us to be the best at our jobs and shows us what it would be like to execute real-world operations."