KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea –
From dawn to dusk and late into the night hours, the roaring sounds of fighter aircraft filled the skies of the Korean Peninsula, Nov. 14 to 22.
To sustain the largest flying exercise on the Korean Peninsula, Kunsan AB adapted to meet the needs of multiple units who joined the Wolf Pack from across the Pacific. As sorties were generated between five different services using eight different airframes, the 8th Fighter Wing proved its ability to rapidly establish mission capability and unity of command in Exercise Max Thunder 14-2.
"For Max Thunder, my flight is the cornerstone of the tenet 'Accept Follow-on Forces,'" said Capt. Melissa Jamison, 8th Force Support Squadron sustainment services flight commander. "We worked tirelessly to receive follow-on forces, provided them a place to rest and fed them in order to keep their mission contributions in all capacities at the highest effective rate."
A semi-annual joint training exercise, Max Thunder 14-2 brought more than 1,000 personnel from various ROK Air Force units, the U.S. Army, Marine Corps and Navy to Kunsan AB.
Despite these figures, Kunsan maintained the capacity to host and sustain additional units with various bed-down requirements, whilst simultaneously conducting rigorous flying missions.
"We double-billeted nearly all of our rooms in the Wolf Pack Lodge," Jamison said. "We are the only lodging facility in the Air Force that has two beds in standard rooms, as our lodging function was built with contingency support in mind. In addition to the extended lodging capacity, we were very grateful to have the participating sister services bring cooks to bolster our kitchen operations. We had a total of seven cooks from the Marines and the Navy. It was a very special experience to look into the O'Malley Dining Facility and see the blend of uniforms working together seamlessly. It was the very definition of a joint operation."
For Master Sgt. Justin McDonald, 8th FSS customer support superintendent, his role in contingency operations is the facilitator and NCO in charge of the personnel processing unit.
McDonald said his role in Max Thunder and similar exercises encompasses total force accountability.
"We are just one piece in the process, but we work with more than seven agencies to take care of everything from 'cradle to grave,'" he said.
From 8th FW Safety, to the Office of Special Investigations, and public health - nearly every agency within the Wolf Pack played a role in supporting additional units to ensure the success of the joint large-force employment training.
"My role as a logistics planner is to organize the incoming forces of Marines and Sailors," said Senior Airman Sarah McDermott, 8th Logistics Readiness Squadron logistics planner. "This includes in-processing, receiving their cargo, lodging and transportation - so we made sure to get in contact with the necessary areas of the base; even down to making sure a bus is ready to pick them up as soon as they step off that plane."
Other agencies played a crucial role to ensure the efficient allocation of various aircraft and their crewmembers.
"There were over 80 aircraft that participated in Max Thunder with an additional 22 support aircraft," said Tech. Sgt. Shateenie Stokes, 8th Operations Support Squadron deputy airfield manager. "It was our responsibility to guarantee adequate parking for the aircraft and a facility for all maintenance personnel, as well as ensuring smooth arrival and departures for all aircraft."
Kunsan AB is the only air base in the ROK where U.S. and ROKAF flying units reside together, a trait that makes it ideal for an exercise like Max Thunder. This partnership enables the U.S. to practice sharpening their skills with their ROKAF allies not only for exercises, but on a daily basis as well.
"We train together so the integration of troops is seamless during actual combat," said 1st Lt. Kyle Deroner, 8th FSS readiness and plans chief. "At the end of the day, it's one team, one fight, and we all need to work together to accomplish the main objective."