YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan –
The 36th Airlift Squadron participated in Exercise Max Thunder during the past week, flying alongside Republic of Korea 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 ROK interoperability and ultimately enhances U.S. and ROK commitments to maintain peace in the region.
"We are the only C-130 airlift piece in the Pacific, so it is critical that we have this experience on the peninsula," said Maj. Andrew Baker, 36 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 longstanding military partnership, commitment and enduring friendship between the two nations, help to ensure peace and security on the Korean Peninsula, and reaffirm the U.S. commitment to stability in the Northeast Asia 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.
ROK 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.
In addition to familiarizing the aircrew with working alongside different types of aircraft, the exercise also allows aircrew to experience flying in the Korean peninsula.
"One of the things that we are limited to here at Yokota 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.
The 36 AS was able to showcase their combat airlift capabilities in the simulated contingency operation, taking advantage of the training opportunity.
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, and is not related to any real-world events.