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NEWS | Oct. 31, 2023

Vigilant Defense 24: Accept follow-on forces

By Tech. Sgt. Emili Koonce, 8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

During the combined flying training event known as Vigilant Defense 24, more than 25 various types of fighter, cargo, tanker, and reconnaissance aircraft from the U.S., ROK, and Royal Australian air forces are conducting flight operations from ROK and U.S. bases across the peninsula Oct. 30 - Nov. 3.

Vigilant Defense is designed to enhance combined training and here to ensure Airmen remain safe in the sky and on the ground are air traffic controllers like U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Paul Gary, 8th Operations Support Squadron ATC senior watch supervisor.

“As air traffic controllers, we have to be proficient at coordinating all airframes from fighter to cargo, military or civilian,” said Gary. “We’re always prepared for whatever may come our way, including an increase in air traffic operations during a contingency operation because for us it would be nothing more than practicing how we play.”

The center component of Kunsan AB’s three-part mission is to “Accept Follow-on Forces” and during a contingency operation, ATC’s ability to coordinate increased flight operations is vital to ensuring efficient and safe reception of those forces.

“I think it is important for Airmen to step away from exercises like this with the ability to remain flexible in situations that take you outside of your comfort zone,” said Gary. “You may have to adapt and follow someone else’s lead in a dynamic situation, and doing so could be the difference in saving or losing lives while coordinating aircraft.”

Controllers provide pilots with their flight and landing information along with weather reports all while deconflicting landing and air space congestion within their zone of responsibility. Gary explains how working together is essential to performing ATC operations.

“Building teams is particularly important,” said Gary. “The person on your left and right needs to be on the same page as you.”

CFTEs are regularly scheduled training events designed to enhance the readiness of U.S. and ROK forces and sustain capabilities, which strengthen the ROK-U.S. Alliance.