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NEWS | March 12, 2015

US, South Korean Air Forces Sharpen Cyberspace Defense

By Staff Sgt. Shawn Nickel, 7th Air Force Public Affairs

Attacks, counter-attacks, bombs, rescues, evacuations and logistics are all elements of conflict.

For the participants of Key Resolve 2015 (KR15), these actions and other important elements of combat come through a buzzing hard drive rather than from a physical foe.

The South Korean Air Force Simulation Center is set up with several components that make up the exercise and make sure it runs smoothly and realistically to accomplish training objectives.

"Our job is to make this training opportunity as realistic as it can possibly be without setting out an exact scenario to follow," said Barry Barksdale, the senior air controller managing simulation operations.

To achieve this level of realism, opposition forces (OPFOR) are given the freedom to develop the scenario as the exercise progresses.

"Our OPFORs get a vote," Barksdale said. "The (South Korean air forces)-U.S. forces may react to one inject, and the OPFOR can go another direction just to help produce realistic results."

Overall, the retired brigadier general maintains "the God's eye" over the exercise, yet he relies on hundreds of people across the country to apply their subject-matter expertise for various aspects of a conflict. He said the combined experience and overall excellence of the participants from all services and countries makes KR15 the most valuable exercise to train combined forces.

Most participants are at KR15 for the first time, which Maj. Leo Daub, the KR15 wing operations center chief and a member of the Illinois Air National Guard, described as a challenge, but one his people can overcome with their ingenuity.

"People come from all over the world to make this operation a success," Daub said. "They are put into positions they may not feel comfortable (in), but I try to follow the advice of General Patton, 'Don't tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.'"

Tech. Sgt. Jake Lacefield is one of those service members.

"Trying to figure out new things in such a short time is a huge challenge," said Lacefield, an Indianapolis native. "My career field doesn't have a direct correlation to what's going on here, so being able to adapt to new skill sets has been quite rewarding."

Traveling to the exercise from the 50th Contracting Squadron at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, Lacefield said overcoming cultural differences and strengthening partnerships is also a huge reward.

"We are all different, but all have similarities," he said. "We are all military centric and want to do what's necessary to complete the mission. In addition, bridging the gap between Guard, Reserve and active-duty service members produces a dynamic working environment."

Lacefield's South Korean counterpart shared similar views on the exercise and expressed readiness as the key takeaway.

"Without practice, we would surely fail in a real-world situation," said South Korean air force Capt. Shin Bok-Young. "It's good to work together to learn to communicate and take lessons from each other, improving the mission on both sides of the table."

Key Resolve is an annual combined and joint command post exercise that employs U.S. military personnel from bases around South Korea and the U.S. The exercise is mostly computer based.

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