KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea –
For maintainers, the Vigilant Defense 24 exercise started the moment they were recalled. Shortly after STARTEX, the flightline began to flood with Airmen as they start generating aircraft.
Aircraft generation is not simply turning the engine on. It takes all specialties within the 8th Maintenance Group to ensure aircraft are safe, armed and ready for take-off at a moment's notice.
“We provide safe, reliable aircraft for the mission,” said Chief Master Sgt. John Accurso, 80th Fighter Generation Squadron senior enlisted leader. “Without our maintainers out here working on the flight line, you will not have mission-capable aircraft and without working aircraft, the pilots can't go and execute the mission.”
Before pilots accept their F-16 Fighting Falcons and assume command of the aircraft, they share a final salute with the crew chief. The salute symbolizes not only the respect between the pilot and their crew chief but also the trust shared between aircrew and maintainer.
“During normal operations, we are practicing as we play; always running simulation missions to prepare ourselves if the call were ever to come,” said Staff Sgt. Zion Littlejohn, 80th FGS dedicated crew chief. “Once we do receive that call we are prepared to generate aircraft and weapons safely and instantaneously. ”
Vigilant Defense 24 is an annual training exercise between the ROK and U.S. air force units stationed across the Peninsula allowing for integrated tactical and strategic level training Oct. 30 - Nov. 3.
In addition to working with ROK mission partners, 8th MXG Airmen supported F-16s from Osan AB; conducting cold pit operations. During the stop, the aircraft were rearmed and fueled before returning to the training airspace.
“We ask a lot from our team and they are a bunch of hard-working and dedicated Airmen,” said Accurso. “I'm proud of them and want everyone to understand the mission starts and ends here with the maintainers.”
Over the course of the Vigilant Defense exercise, 8 MXG Airmen enabled more than 160 F-16 sorties in five days to prove their ability to keep the Wolf Pack ready to ‘Fight Tonight’ on behalf of the ROK.