KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea --
More than 200 Guardsmen from the 158th Fighter Wing, Burlington, Vermont Air National Guard, redeployed here from Kadena Air Base, Japan, in August in support of a Theater Security Package to the Republic of Korea.
Having been originally deployed to Japan, their deployment to the ROK was done in support of a revamp of Osan Air Base's runway to bolster air assets in the Republic of Korea.
"Showing iron on the ramp means providing a show of force to the rest of world, which also shows our ability to relocate and send our forces around the world when called upon at a moment's notice," said Maj. Parker Marshall, 134th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron maintenance commander. "It's a critical piece to America's military dominance and it also reiterates to the world our superior air power."
Being designated as the 134th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, the team of guardsmen integrated with Airmen from the 8th Fighter Wing. They were sent to Kunsan for two and a half months as part of a rotation to enable the U.S. to maintain a significant presence within the Pacific Theater. Rotational forces at deployed locations reduce the distance and response time for contingency operations.
"Our strategic piece over here was to provide a show of force and assist the 8th Maintenance Group with their operations," said Master Sgt. Brendan Doloughty, 134th EFS NCO in charge of aircrew flight equipment and operations. "Although Osan Air Base's runway was also closed, we still had the same amount of fighter aircraft flying on the peninsula."
The deployment provided training opportunities for Airmen from the 134th EFS to integrate with Airmen from the 8th Maintenance Group. It also demonstrated the U.S. military's contribution to the Asia-Pacific pivot by maintaining training and operational readiness.
"A lot of our maintenance back shops integrated with the active duty Airmen," said Tech. Sgt. Brett Larson, 134th EFS F-16 Fighting Falcon crew chief. "We collaborated with Airmen from the 35th Aircraft Maintenance Unit who worked on the same block aircraft to remedy various maintenance issues."
The 134th EFS bolstered the Pacific Air Forces mission by generating 655 sorties and 924.5 flight hours. They also participated in Exercise Beverly Pack 16-1 Oct. 5 - 9. Through these sorties and flight hours, they were able to partake in unique opportunities to integrate into joint, coalition and bilateral training across diverse environments.
"With anything that's asked of us, we not only have to make sure we do it, but we also have to ensure we do it at the highest level possible," Doloughty said. "We've been able to represent and support this fighter wing."
Another added benefit to the TSP mission, is that it enables Total Force Integration, which allows guardsmen and active duty Airmen to exchange ideas, techniques and best practices.
"The practices the active duty Airmen perform at Kunsan come from the same regulations that we have in the ANG, but they're interpreted differently," Larson said. "I was impressed by how receptive Kunsan Airmen were to the guard coming in. There weren't any conflicts at all as far as how we got things done because people were working together."
In addition to working alongside active duty Airmen, the Guardsmen were also able to complete more upgrade training than they normally could complete in two months. The four-month deployment gave guardsmen an opportunity to increase their experience to a level that would take years to acquire in their traditional role.
"The deliberate development of Airmen was one of our goals prior to our arrival at Kunsan," Doloughty said. "We used the time we had during the deployment as an opportunity to get mentally and physically stronger all around."
Overall, TSP deployments at forward deployed locations send a clear message to the international community that the U.S. is serious about security and stability in the region. This also helps to solidify ties with U.S. allies and increase military combat capabilities.
"Having a presence helps project power in an area to act as a deterrent," said Chief Master Sgt. Brian Senecal, 134th EFS superintendent. "It's necessary for us to show our allies that we are there for them and to show our enemies that we are serious."