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Yokota Airmen train combat mobility during Max Thunder

A 36th Airlift Squadron C-130 Hercules flies over South Korea Nov. 19, 2014, during Exercise Max Thunder. The 36th AS represented Yokota Air Base, Japan, during the exercise and used the opportunity to practice combat maneuvers and low-altitude flying. (U.S. Air Force graphic/Staff Sgt. Cody H. Ramirez)

A 36th Airlift Squadron C-130 Hercules flies over South Korea Nov. 19, 2014, during Exercise Max Thunder. The 36th AS represented Yokota Air Base, Japan, during the exercise and used the opportunity to practice combat maneuvers and low-altitude flying. (U.S. Air Force graphic/Staff Sgt. Cody H. Ramirez)

Lt. Col. Eric Gaulin and Capt. Shawn Hooton conduct preflight checks Nov. 19, 2014, at Yokota Air Base, Japan, during Exercise Max Thunder. Max Thunder is a biannual bilateral exercise designed to strengthen the partnership and interoperability between the U.S. and South Korea. Gaulin and Hooton are C-130 Hercules pilots. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Cody H. Ramirez)

Lt. Col. Eric Gaulin and Capt. Shawn Hooton conduct preflight checks Nov. 19, 2014, at Yokota Air Base, Japan, during Exercise Max Thunder. Max Thunder is a biannual bilateral exercise designed to strengthen the partnership and interoperability between the U.S. and South Korea. Gaulin and Hooton are C-130 Hercules pilots. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Cody H. Ramirez)

Mt. Fuji, a World Heritage Site, is seen Nov. 19, 2014, from a C-130 Hercules flying from Yokota Air Base, Japan, to South Korea to take part in Exercise Max Thunder. The 36th Airlift Squadron plays a vital mobility role in the biannual exercise aimed at improving the interoperability of the U.S.-South Korea partnership. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Cody H. Ramirez)

Mt. Fuji, a World Heritage Site, is seen Nov. 19, 2014, from a C-130 Hercules flying from Yokota Air Base, Japan, to South Korea to take part in Exercise Max Thunder. The 36th Airlift Squadron plays a vital mobility role in the biannual exercise aimed at improving the interoperability of the U.S.-South Korea partnership. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Cody H. Ramirez)

Capt. Shawn Hooton conducts a preflight briefing during Exercise Max Thunder Nov. 19, 2014, at Yokota Air Base, Japan.  Hooton is a C-130 Hercules pilot and flight commander. Hooton flew the lead ship of a three-ship formation during the exercise, practicing evasive combat maneuvers and radar avoidance. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Cody H. Ramirez)

Capt. Shawn Hooton conducts a preflight briefing during Exercise Max Thunder Nov. 19, 2014, at Yokota Air Base, Japan. Hooton is a C-130 Hercules pilot and flight commander. Hooton flew the lead ship of a three-ship formation during the exercise, practicing evasive combat maneuvers and radar avoidance. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Cody H. Ramirez)

Capt. Shawn Hooton puts a map on display during a flight Nov. 19, 2014, over South Korea. Hooton and other members of the 36th Airlift Squadron flew to South Korea to participate in Max Thunder, a biannual exercise focused on improving the interoperability of the U.S.-South Korea partnership. Hooton is a 36th AS C-130 Hercules pilot. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Cody H. Ramirez)

Capt. Shawn Hooton puts a map on display during a flight Nov. 19, 2014, over South Korea. Hooton and other members of the 36th Airlift Squadron flew to South Korea to participate in Max Thunder, a biannual exercise focused on improving the interoperability of the U.S.-South Korea partnership. Hooton is a 36th AS C-130 Hercules pilot. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Cody H. Ramirez)

Maj. Andrew Baker takes notes during Exercise Max Thunder Nov. 19, 2014, over South Korea. Baker conducted weeks of preparation and planning to ensure members of the 36th Airlift Squadron were ready to participate in the biannual exercise, and took notes during the mission to improve mission planning for future exercises.  Baker is a 36th AS weapons and tactics flight commander. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Cody H. Ramirez)

Maj. Andrew Baker takes notes during Exercise Max Thunder Nov. 19, 2014, over South Korea. Baker conducted weeks of preparation and planning to ensure members of the 36th Airlift Squadron were ready to participate in the biannual exercise, and took notes during the mission to improve mission planning for future exercises. Baker is a 36th AS weapons and tactics flight commander. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Cody H. Ramirez)

Capt. John Richmond communicates with Maj. Andrew Baker during Exercise Max Thunder Nov. 19, 2014, over South Korea. Richmond ensured his flight maintained their planned course during the exercise. Richmond is a 36th Airlift Squadron C-130 Hercules navigator and Baker is a 36th AS weapons and tactics flight commander. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Cody H. Ramirez)

Capt. John Richmond communicates with Maj. Andrew Baker during Exercise Max Thunder Nov. 19, 2014, over South Korea. Richmond ensured his flight maintained their planned course during the exercise. Richmond is a 36th Airlift Squadron C-130 Hercules navigator and Baker is a 36th AS weapons and tactics flight commander. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Cody H. Ramirez)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan (AFNS) -- The 36th Airlift Squadron participated in Exercise Max Thunder 14-2, flying alongside South Korean military counterparts to integrate their airlift capabilities in a simulated combat environment.

Max Thunder is a biannual, large-scale employment exercise aimed at increasing U.S. and Republic of Korea interoperability and ultimately enhances the two countries' commitments to maintain peace in the region.

"We are the only C-130 (Hercules) airlift piece in the Pacific, so it is critical that we have this experience on the peninsula," said Maj. Andrew Baker, the 36th AS weapons and tactics flight commander. "When the call goes out from the commanders in South Korea, (anything from humanitarian relief to combat operations), we are right next door and we are going to support them with whatever they need."

These exercises highlight the long-standing military partnership, commitment and enduring friendship between the two nations, help ensure peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and reaffirm the United States' commitment to stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

"We are actually participating with the Korean C-130s in our formations and flying with a lot of Korean fighters ... we are committed to them; we are committed to their people," Baker said.

South Korean and U.S. forces participating in the exercise have the ability to accept follow-on forces. Interoperability with dissimilar aircraft, like the Yokota C-130s flying with fighters, enables aircrew members to be battle-ready for many potential situations.

"One of the things we are limited to here at Yokota (AB) is we have to fly high for our low-level training -- about 1,000 feet above ground level," Baker said. "When we get to Korea, we can get as low as 500 feet above ground level.

"Into the Korean peninsula, we are going down low and getting familiar with the terrain, and that's going to really help us if we ever need to exercise that option," Baker added.

According to Capt. Shawn Hooton, a 36th AS flight commander, Korea offers certain mission complexities that cannot be replicated anywhere else.

"Radio procedures are slightly different, the terrain is challenging, but not substantially hazardous, and the coordination process is entirely specific to Korea," Hooton said. "Not to mention, we are sitting in Japan planning a flight in Korea, 700 miles away."

The 36th AS was able to showcase their combat airlift capabilities in the simulated contingency operation, taking advantage of the training opportunity.

"We were very lucky to complete our training," Hooton said. "Any occasion (where) we plan a training flight, any number of limiting factors could potentially cancel our mission. It could be inclement weather, unavailability of airspace or a slew of other potentials."

But, Hooton said that is the nature of the mission here, and his team is prepared for those cases.

"We plan, we flex, we fly, and then we flex some more," Hooton added.

Max Thunder is part of a continuous exercise schedule, strengthening the U.S.-ROK Alliance and helping both nations fulfill their obligations to the Mutual Defense Treaty. The exercise is a regular training event held twice a year.

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