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US, South Korean civil engineers work together during exercise

OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea (AFNS) -- In a nondescript room in the bottom of a random building, sits a group of men and women coordinating engineering requirements for military personnel.

The civil engineers working for the Seventh Air Force installations and mission support during exercise Key Resolve 2015 strive to ensure all South Korean and U.S. installations remain operational in a contingency situation.

“Our primary mission is to repair the damage that would occur during an attack and try to repair those things as fast as possible,” said South Korean air force Capt. Young Woon Yoon, the exercise and training chief.

“We rely heavily on the ROKAF (Republic of Korea air force) engineers to ensure the airfields are operational,” said Capt. Anna Narduzzi, the Seventh Air Force plans and readiness chief. “There are places where U.S. engineers might not have personnel but we are flying operations.”

In operations like exercise Key Resolve, civil engineers support the pre-air tasking orders directly by ensuring all facilities have the proper resources needed to stay operational, to include water and electricity.

“When you say Air Force, the older (Koreans) just think of the aircraft, but with civil engineering we control, take care of, or support everything from the start to the end,” Yoon said. “I am really proud a lot of the functions that make the operation succeed are done by civil engineers.”

According to Yoon, the continuity South Korean forces provide is essential to mission success because they don’t have to overcome the challenges of knowledge turnover on an annual or biannual basis.

“It makes it much easier because I can ask (the ROKAF) questions and I know they’re already prepared for whatever may happen,” Narduzzi said. “For example, if an airfield lighting system would go down, they are already prepared to move their extra portable lighting system to one of our bases for back up.

“During the exercise I went and told them we had an issue with one of our lighting systems and they said, ‘no problem we already have a lighting system here and it’s ready to go, and we are going to help you install it.’ It gives me a great level of confidence if a conflict actually kicked off to know we are going to be able to work together really well,” Narduzzi explained.

Yoon said being trained in the same mission parameters and the strong relations between South Korea and U.S. forces helps overcome barriers because everyone is prepared for the operation’s procedures. The communication limitation is one of the biggest challenges to overcome while working with coalition partners, but Yoon explained time built into the planning ensures better coordination.

Narduzzi also explained that everything takes longer to communicate across multiple languages; however, the working relationships between coalition partners help counter any issues arising from this limitation.

“Our offices and our engineering units are structured very similarly,” she said. “They train on the same systems and they train together so all our operations are very well coordinated.”

Narduzzi said the experience of working with coalition partners helped greatly in furthering her understanding of the parameters of Key Resolve and how to operate in a real-world situation, which Yoon expanded upon while reflecting on his own past experiences.

“I had a chance to do this kind of exercise in a field location before being assigned here,” Yoon said. “Back then I had a short-sighted vision of doing the entire exercise, but I’ve now had a chance to see the U.S. Air Force concepts of the operation. I learned a lot from them and was able to find ways to improve our operations. This was a really good exercise to further that knowledge and I learned a lot form my counterpart captain.”

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