February 22, 2011 (by SSgt. Amanda Savannah) - The 8th Fighter Wing relies on more than two thousand permanently assigned Airmen from across the Air Force to complete its mission.
However, to further deter the enemy and defend the base and the peninsula, the Wolf Pack also regularly accepts follow-on Reserve, Guard and active-duty forces to augment the wing's Airmen and help them prepare to take the fight north if necessary.
These rotational theater support packages effectively form the 8th FW's third fighter squadron, along with the Pack's permanent 35th and 80th Fighter Squadrons. Currently, Airmen from the Vermont and Alabama Air National Guards make up the 134th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron here.
In a typical Air Expeditionary Force Guard rotation, two units split the rotation, a process called the "rainbow" concept.
"The lead unit is responsible for getting all the aircraft and support assets into place and set up, and the trail unit comes in, shakes hands, continues the operation, and then at the end of the deployment, is responsible for packing up and getting everything ready to go back home," said Lt. Col. Barent Rogers, 134th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander.
The Guard employs this concept to minimize the hardships a full deployment can have on the volunteer force of citizen Airmen, their families, and their full-time civilian employers, Colonel Rogers said.
Although the 134th EFS is made of two separate units, the Vermont and Alabama units work with each other prior to and during their deployment to ensure the job is done effortlessly.
"We have rainbow partners and we know who they are ... so even before the deployment we have a working relationship and ... are always in touch with one another and know what's going on, so that we can, in a relatively short time, come together to execute the deployment," Colonel Rogers said.
Both units integrated into the 8th FW and the 35th and 80th FS
upon arrival to prepare for and execute F-16 Fighting Falcon sorties, the colonel said.
"On a day-to-day basis we fly with the 80th and 35th FS," Colonel Rogers said. "We brief together, fly together and de-brief together, so we get to learn from one another."
Maintenance Airmen are also merged into the 8th Maintenance Squadron to work shoulder to shoulder with 8th MXS personnel.
This bolsters the 8th MXS's capabilities with additional people who come with a lot of experience, which the 8th FW recognizes as a tremendous benefit of the Guard units here, said Colonel Rogers.
As the 134th EFS is its own squadron here, it also maintains its own 134th EAMXS aircraft maintenance unit so it is completely self-sufficient.
"The 134th EAMXS has all the specialist flights -- the avionics, electro-environmental, weapons load crews, crew chiefs, and all -- just like a regular active-duty AMU," said Senior Master Sgt. Michael Mackenzie, 134th EAMXS night shift weapons load supervisor. "Everybody works hand-in-hand together to support the mission that we're tasked to do."
Sergeant Mackenzie also believes having the Guard units here offers more than just the support of additional forces.
"One advantage I feel we have in the Guard is, we have a lot of continuity," he said. "A lot of people have been working together and working the same airframe for several years; they're not PCSing (permanently changing stations) to different bases or airframes every two, three or four years, so we build continuity. Even with the intermixing of the various units in our rainbow environment, we all have the same standardized training. When we come to do the job, we all abide by the same set of standards and regulations or policies as our active-duty partners."
As important as the TSP's presence is to the Wolf Pack, the deployment is also a benefit to the Guardsmen, who are able to take the opportunity to develop themselves as Airmen during their time here.
"Like the Wolf (Col. John Dolan, 8th FW commander) says, the great thing about developing Airmen is that the Airmen get to take opportunities that are available to them here because it is a deployed location," Colonel Rogers said. "We work hard and play hard, but there's going to be some down time too for Airmen to take advantage of and use toward developing those Airmanship and leadership skills, whether that's ... getting the opportunity to talk with their supervisors that maybe we don't get back home, or formally enrolling in a course."
"In the Guard, the majority of our force is traditional Guardsmen who do this one weekend a month and 15 days of the year," Sergeant Mackenzie said. "So for their development process, they are getting additional training in the environment such as we're in, which makes them more proficient in their jobs, and they have a better understanding. We don't do this hands-on and day to day like our active-duty counterparts, so these types of deployments are very beneficial whenever we have the opportunity to do this."
The Airmen from the squadron are enjoying their time as part of the Wolf Pack.
"This is my first time out of the country, ever," said Senior Airman Mark Lovely, 134th EAMXS aircraft fuel systems journeyman, "so it's kind of nice to see different cultures and experience different things."
The deployment is also a first for Airman 1st Class Caitlin Newvine, 134th EAMXS knowledge operations manager.
"I love being here," she said. "This is my first deployment, so I'm learning. Being a traditional Guardsman, you don't get a lot of time to learn your job and do hands-on stuff. Working with active-duty, it's incredible to see how everything is supposed to be done or different ways to do it to make it better."
While the deployment isn't a first for Sergeant Mackenzie, it is his first tour to the Pacific region.
"It's been a lot of fun," he said. "This is my first time deployed over the Pacific Ocean, and I've learned a little of the culture in Korea. It's been an experience; you're never too old to learn, and Kunsan's been a good place to do that since I've never been over here before."
Airman 1st Class Deymond Sankey and Senior Airman Laurence Urrutia, 134th EAMXS avionics technicians, said they enjoyed meeting new people.
"Working with the unit from Vermont has been a great experience for me, meeting different people and learning how they work," Airman Sankey said. "I've enjoyed this experience, meeting other people and learning from them."
"There is some great scenery here, and it's good to meet other units," said Airman Urrutia. "It's been a lot of fun seeing how they work compared to other units I've been with, and meeting other people from across the Air Force."
Colonel Rogers said he loves the two-fold reward he receives as being a 134th EFS pilot and commander of the 134th EAMXS squadron.
"It's always rewarding to take the show on the road, and go to the theater where the bad guys are located just a couple miles up the road, and know that we're here serving a vital mission as a key component of the deterrence factor for South Korea
," the colonel said. "So for my job, being a pilot here, that is rewarding. From the maintenance aspect, being here and getting to work with Airmen from around the U.S. ... and being able to bring the team together, is great. Even though the rainbow concept isn't new to the Guard, it doesn't come without its problems, and being able to, as the commander, get a group of people and get them to work together seamlessly and effectively to make sure we have the number of aircraft the Wolf says we need and be able to provide, that is rewarding. So I get a two-fold benefit; I get to go fly and defend, and I get to see the (approximately) 200 Airmen behind the scenes who are making it all happen. And they're doing a wonderful job."