March 27, 2008 (by Ashley Rowland) - An F-16 squadron from South Carolina led a combined large-force exercise at Kunsan AB earlier this month, the first time a squadron stationed outside South Korea has completed the task with American and South Korean jets.
Lt. Col. Donald Butler touches down in F-16C block 50 #91-0379 on January 15th, 2008 at Kunsan AB. Colonel Butler is the 79th FS commander from Shaw AFB. More than 300 Airmen and several aircraft from the 79th FS are in South Korea as the squadron's air and space expeditionary force deployment to help maintain peace and stability in the Pacific region. [USAF photo by SrA. Steven R. Doty]
Twenty F-16s, including two South Korean jets, flew in the 1½ hour nighttime mission in early March. Ten of the American jets were from Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., and eight were from Kunsan.
More than 300 airmen from Shaw arrived at Kunsan in January as part of an Air and Space Expeditionary Force deployment, which typically lasts four months.
"It was a very unique experience for us," said Lt. Col. Donald Butler, commander and pilot with Shaw's 79th Fighter Squadron. "It's not a common thing to do night missions with foreign air forces."
Butler was impressed with the South Korean servicemembers.
"They're very practiced and schooled in what they do," Butler said. "I think we're on an even playing field. ... Obviously they're learning more, and they want to fly with us."
Pilot Maj. Kevin Silknitter said the U.S. and South Korean pilots had almost no communication problems as they planned the mission, although the U.S. pilots had to explain some military acronyms and slang.
He said the mission gave the South Carolina pilots practice in working with foreign militaries.
"We are responsible for taskings all over the world and to integrate with air forces and services from many countries all over the world," he said.
About 300 Shaw maintenance troops helped prepare for the flight.
This is the first time the squadron has been deployed to the Pacific, and the first time since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that a fighter squadron from Shaw has been deployed to somewhere besides the Middle East, according to Kunsan spokeswoman Capt.