By Senior Airman Armando A. Schwier-Morales, 8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs / Published April 28, 2014
U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force pilots taxi towards the runway to begin a joint sortie during the 12th Max Thunder April 22, 2014, at Gwangju Air Base, South Korea. The two-week exercise is the air component-led portion of Exercise Foal Eagle and trains both Korean and U.S. Airmen on aerial training. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Armando A. Schwier-Morales)
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KUNSAN AIR BASE, South Korea (AFNS) --
Airmen from the Department of Defense and South Korea joined forces to showcase and exercise its air power during the 12th Max Thunder exercise at Gwangju Air Base here April 11-25.
The exercise brought a brotherhood of Airmen together not only to showcase their skills, but also learn and develop new ones. The exercise included more than 600 deployed DOD personnel and over 150 Kunsan AB Airmen.
"What we have here is a unique situation when we are having (South Korean Airmen) work with our Marines and our Navy in joint strike packages or any kind of exercise movement," said Lt. Col. Henry Jeffress, the 80th Fighter Squadron director of operations. "It gives a unique flavor and ups the game bit. Everyone here is trying to get better."
The event fosters bilateral aerial training by replicating dog fights, quick alerts, close air support missions and the overall theme of employing and deploying a joint coalition and overcoming obstacles.
"Our (team) all around stepped up and they met the challenges of having all these aircraft on the ramp launching at one time, numerous aircraft in the airspace, challenges from language difficulties, and somehow we are almost through," Jeffress said. "We have overcome it and learned. We have gotten better."
Sitting on the Gwangju tarmac were the multitude of branches and F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 8th Fighter Wing and 51st Fighter Wing, F-18 Hornets from Marine Air Group 12, EA-18G Growlers from U.S. Seventh Fleet, C-130 Hercules from the 374th Airlift Wing, F-15C Eagles and E-3B Sentrys from the 18th Wing and numerous Korean aircraft and accompanying support personnel.
The exercise planners hope to provide training to Airmen such as Staff Sgt. Alex Tamsen, an 80th Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chief, by giving experience that will minimize potential combat losses, demonstrate interoperability between the partner countries and provide training for future South Korean and U.S. Red Flag participants.
"We come out here every day, we crush the sorties, we crush the mission and we do it all the time," Tamsen said. "We make sure these jets get up in the air and do their mission safely."
For Tamsen and many of the Airmen the exercise came to a close on the 25th, but the knowledge learned from the 12th Max Thunder will follow them throughout future assignments and deployments.
"I am proud of the attitude that was displayed, and the professionalism I saw," Jeffress said. "I am extremely impressed by what we were able to accomplish because there were a lot of lessons learned by both sides, and it only makes us better. We will all leave here better Airmen and better able and capable to do our job in the future."