USFK commander visits Wolf Pack, pledges support for upgrades
By Senior Airman Stephen Collier, 8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 14, 2007
KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- The United States Forces Korea commander visited Kunsan for the second time April 10 and in a surprising move, pledged significant financial support to improve and construct quality of life facilities as base expansion plans continue.
While seeing 8th Fighter Wing Airmen in action before their Operational Readiness Inspection was on his agenda, Gen. B.B. Bell also toured the 2-1 Air Defense Artillery Charlie Battery tactical site where we held an open forum with Soldiers on the challenges they faced at Kunsan.
Soon after, the general met with 35th and 80th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chiefs to get a better understanding of the living and working conditions the maintainers deal with on a daily basis as well as concerns they had going into the ORI.
"I know the ORI is important to the Airmen, but it's also important to me because as a joint forces commander, my first responsibility is deterrence," Gen. Bell said. "Deterrence comes from known strength. Of course, an ORI also gives leadership here and me confidence that this outfit is ready. There is no doubt in my mind they will do very well during the ORI and they will demonstrate that they know what they are doing, that they're capable of executing the mission and they're ready to do it through their procedures, equipment and all their activities. This will be a good inspection; everyone is nervous about it, but this will work out well and it will send the right message."
With work and living facilities a high priority for USFK and Seventh Air Force leadership, of which Kunsan falls under, Gen. Bell also spoke candidly with wing leadership on his dedication to upgrading, what he said, were both critical areas.
Making good on his commitment, the general told Col. Jeff "Wolf" Lofgren, 8th Fighter Wing commander, USFK would dedicate financial assistance from the unified command, most of which would support the prompt construction of a new dining facility, base clinic and library. Gen. Bell said the money was being made available to "get the projects going."
"I've been impressed with the facilities here," Gen. Bell said. "What's important is that everybody needs to recognize [Kunsan] is growing more and more into a joint force base lead by the Air Force, but with a larger and growing Army population [under the base expansion plan.] The plans to incorporate the two services into one, cohesive operation are very impressive and I'm excited about the direction we're going in. But, we need to get on with it and start digging some dirt up and making improvements that we agreed to. I'm a little less than thrilled at the progress we've made so far, but part of that is my problem. I need to make sure we get the money and programs turned loose to make this happen. I'll go back to Yongsan and turn a few screws loose to expedite getting this started down here to move this base into the future."
As the general's trip wrapped up, he left the base with a better understand of Kunsan's readiness, its commitment to the nation and its good neighbor program.
"First off, I want to say thanks to the Airmen and Soldiers here for their service to their democracy. Also, thanks for being good neighbors with our Korean allies," he said. "Everywhere I've been, I've learned about the programs and procedures with our Good Neighbor Program and it makes a difference. To be an alliance, we need to have more than just the two nation's capitals talking to each other. We need real citizens of both nations engaged in activities together, sharing their lives and cultures with each other. This is a base engaged with the good citizens of Gunsan City and the surrounding area and the Airmen and Soldiers here are taking that mission on. These are the things I see here and I thank them for it."