April 12, 2009 (by SrA Angela Ruiz) - The commander of United States Forces Korea experienced firsthand the Wolf Pack's mission on April 10, 2009.
Army Gen. Walter Sharp, USFK commander shakes hands with Republic of Korea Army Gen. Lee, Sung Chool, Combined Forces Command deputy commander after their familiarization flight at Kunsan AB on April 10th, 2009. General Sharp was flew with the RoKAFs 38th FG in order to observe their combat capabilities and interoperability with U.S. forces. General Lee flew with the 8th FW's 80th FS. [USAF photo by SrA. Angela Ruiz]
Accompanied by his counterpart, Republic of Korea Army Gen. Lee, Sung Chool, Combined Forces Command deputy commander, Army Gen. Walter Sharp visited Kunsan Air Base to get an up-close look at what the 8th Fighter Wing brings to the fight.
"Air Power is very important to all of our war plans," said General Sharp, "I wanted to see the coordination that has to take place between the Republic of Korea and the US pilots and the Republic of Korea, and US tactical air controllers that are on the ground directing them into a close air support mission today."
The 8th Fighter Wing and Republic of Korea Air Force's 38th Fighter Group hosted the two leaders for the day. Both flew F-16 familiarization flights, however General Sharp flew with a RoKAF
pilot in a F-16K while General Lee flew with the 80th Fighter Squadron "Juvats" assigned to 8th Fighter Wing.
"This is a great base be able to increase our capability because we're able to have both ROK and US pilots fly together, train together and live very close together," said General Sharp "What I saw up there today going through a [Close Air Support] mission with two US pilots and two ROKAF Pilots really clearly demonstrated to me the strength of this alliance and the strength of Air Power here in the Republic of Korea."
The day's flight took General Sharp and General Lee on a simulated CAS
mission in an urban environment. They observed the precision with which the F-16 pilots are able to strike targets and also how the Airmen integrate with both US and ROK tactical air controllers on the ground.
"We were very successful today in picking out, in a very crowded environment, many different building and vehicles," General Sharp said. "The JTACS [Joint Terminal Air Controllers] were able to talk us in onto the target, to deliver the bombs on the target, get good battle damage assessment and then roll back in on a couple of the targets.
"[The mission] showed the combined nature of this fight, and really the combined abilities we have here with both ROK and US F-16 pilots," he said.
According to General Sharp the bi-lateral training opportunities that exist in Korea are critical to both nations' militaries, in the air, on the ground and at sea.
"We fight as one team here and we train as one team," he said. "I'm absolutely convinced that this team of Republic of Korea and US military is prepared for anything."
The day's visit was General Sharp's first experience flying with the Wolf Pack Airmen. The career Armor officer left with a greater understanding of how Kunsan's F-16s integrate with the fight on the ground and confidence in the ability and readiness of the men and women who make up both sides of the US, ROK alliance.
"What I learned out of this today is number one, that the Air Force, both ROK and US, are trained and ready to go against anything that's coming," he said.