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Ulchi Freedom Guardian: Operations floor ensures success

OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea (AFNS) -- Called by many names throughout its 28-year history, Ulchi Freedom Guardian kicked off once again Aug. 18 and continues through Aug. 29.

The largest computerized command and control exercise in the world, UFG focuses on increasing the readiness and interoperability of South Korea and U.S. forces to defend South Korea if needed.

More than 30,000 U.S. service members are participating in UFG 2014, with more than 3,000 coming from outside the South Korea.

"Americans and Koreans work together along with other allies and we practice executing an air campaign," said Col. Juris Jansons, the Air Component Command combat operations chief. "It encompasses the entire peninsula, so it involves the whole joint combined force."

Jansons, a Seattle native, said his role on the operations floor is to direct service members to execute a mission plan.

"The folks that are in the [operations center] are running that plan and making sure it unfolds as expected, but as any plan, things change,” Jansons said. “So our job is to manage those changes and get what the intent was from the original plan.”

According to Jansons, the joint teams on the operations floor gain experience working together and learn how to put their forces together to achieve collaborated efforts.

"[UFG] is really important, especially from the training perspective,” he said. “Because readiness is always a part of deterrence, so being ready and demonstrating what we can do together is always important for us.”

The operations floor is filled with a variety of uniforms under the glow of hundreds of computer screens and screen projections. The floor hosts a wide range of personnel from all Defense Department services and other nations, all with different specialties. Jansons said this diversity is what provides the expertise necessary to make planning adjustments and ensure a successfully executed operation.

"There is also long-term benefits because the relationships we form on the [operations] floor are part of the reason why this is such a successful alliance," the colonel said. "This is one of the longest alliances in modern history, and it's because of those relationships. Working alongside your counterparts is a great way to foster that sense of team."

Jansons also said there are a couple of lessons he hopes those working on the ops floor learn during UFG.

"The first lesson is that everyone gets a chance to refine their skills and see the next level up in controlling a force," Jansons said. "Where all of us get used to being in the trenches working on our particular job, the next level up is seeing how it all coordinates. That is what I hope everyone can take away from [UFG]. Not only 'how do I do my job' but, how does it coordinate across the bigger picture."

In addition to increasing the military preparedness and response capabilities in defense of the peninsula, UFG showcases the longstanding relationship maintained between the U.S. and South Korea and reaffirms the U.S. commitment to the South Korea-U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty in accordance with the armistice.

"This is a great opportunity for us to work together and practice those skills we need, and then its building that friendship and partnership," Jansons added. "Part of the reason this alliance is so successful is because we work and practice together."

UFG is an annual exercise and is not in response to any current world events.

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