Wolf Pack does its part during peninsula combat employment exercise

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Stephen Collier
  • 8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Staff meetings and conference calls are the norm for Thursdays at many fighter wings throughout the Air Force. But for leadership here, an exercise inject from higher command, requiring the wing to prepare for imminent hostilities is just another day at the office, even when it comes during a meeting.

At this southern base on the peninsula, exercising to be "ready to fight tonight" is more than just a slogan; it's a lifestyle. And these leaders are once again rallying their Airmen for another Air Force exercise geared toward training for the unthinkable day in which U.S. forces must repel aggression.

"At Kunsan, we have a constant turnover of personnel, keeping us in a constant state of training to be ready to fight tonight," said. Col. Jeff  Lofgren, commander of the legendary 8th Fighter Wing, commonly referred to as "the Wolf Pack."

"Not only do we constantly train new folks, we are always refining Airmen already here. To integrate our new folks into our team, we have to exercise on a quarterly basis,"  he said. 

Each commander of this fighter wing, dating back to the Vietnam War, has been bestowed upon with title of "Wolf," a reflection of former commander Col. Robin Olds who coined the name Wolf Pack before the famous 1967 Operation Bolo mission. The aggressiveness and teamwork the wing's pilots showed during the war inspired Colonel Olds to nickname the unit the Wolf Pack.

The early morning hours of Nov. 13 gave way to the base's public address system, announcing the recall of all base personnel to their war-time locations. Once recalled, the base immediately transforms into a warrior installation, complete with closed-down facilities, including the base exchange, commissary and enlisted and officers' clubs. Replacing these morale and welfare assets are concrete barriers, concertina wire and security forces augmentees. In a matter of mere hours, Kunsan is able to transfer from its day-to-day mission of enforcing the 1953 Korean War armistice to becoming a critical unit in the Pacific Rim war footing.

"The legacy of Kunsan is the base's constant combat readiness since 1974," Colonel Lofgren said. "This has helped to deter North Korean aggression, allowing for U.S. national interests to be met. Combat exercising means combat readiness."

But this is a common occurrence for the men and women of the Wolf Pack. Being assigned to Korea means a constant state of war readiness, requiring endless hours of training and preparation for a war that hasn't taken place. And Airmen like Staff Sgt. Michael Knipmeyer, non-commissioned officer in charge of readiness training with the 8th Civil Engineer Squadron, likes to keep it that way.

"We make sure the skills we learn [here] are second nature," he said. "When and if it comes time to use those skills, we'll be proficient at them. In the end, we'll be able to carry out the war more effectively all the while trying to end it quickly."

Airmen here are briefed prior to every exercise on what's expected of them. Not only are they updated on the exercise's political and military situation, they're also given the "tough love" treatment regarding the realities of war. 

"We tell it like it is here," said Maj. Rhude Cherry, 8th Fighter Wing plans and programs director. "We tell our Airmen what they can expect to happen."

Airmen here say they appreciate the down-to-earth leadership, as every member of the Wolf Pack is expected to live up to Kunsan's all-encompassing motto: Defend the Base, Accept Follow-on Forces and Take the Fight North. Airmen here are entrusted with the enormous responsibly of defending the Korean peninsula from any and all aggression and that fact hasn't passed by leadership.

"If a war were to kick off, we would ask our Airmen to go out into harm's way. That's the reality of helping our Republic of Korea allies defend their country," Maj. Cherry said. "This could mean going out into a live-fire area, getting wounded or even worse. We want them to know exactly what is expected of them. But that also means them knowing what is expected from their leadership. They have a right to know what type of threat is out there, what the wing will do to protect them and how the base is poised to repel attacks. If they're going to sacrifice like that, Airmen have a need to know and have an understanding of the Wolf Pack's mission."

Sortie after sortie, F-16s from both the 35th and 80th Fighter Squadrons assigned to Kunsan lift off into Korea's soupy sky. As the exercise rolls onward toward its second day, day-shift Airmen from the maintenance bays to the loneliest defensive fighting position prepare to head home as their night shift counterparts take over their duties to Take the Fight North. Those weary Airmen will reach their dorms, drop their protective gear and fall asleep, ready to fight and train another day.