by Senior Airman Taylor Curry
8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
4/26/2015 - GWANGJU AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Wolf
Pack Airmen joined other members of U.S. Air Force, Marine Corps and
Republic of Korea Air Force units at Gwangju Air Base, ROK, for Exercise
Max Thunder 15-1 April 10 through 24.
"This is the seventh year of Max Thunder, and its core principles remain
much the same today as when it began," said Col. Brian Carr, 51st
Fighter Wing vice commander and Max Thunder 15-1 deployed forces
commander. "These intricate scenarios continue to focus on the combined
and joint integration of air power across many disciplines while
enhancing the capability of ROKAF and U.S. flying units to conduct
combat air operations together."
Max Thunder is a regularly scheduled flying exercise held twice per year
and is the largest flying exercise held on the Korean Peninsula. This
latest exercise included more than 750 U.S. personnel, approximately 170
of those hailing from Kunsan Air Base.
"This iteration of Max Thunder was a great opportunity for Wolf Pack
Airmen to work alongside our fellow Air Force, Marine and ROKAF
counterparts at an unfamiliar base," said Col. Ken "Wolf" Ekman, 8th
Fighter Wing commander. "Practicing realistic combat scenarios in a
different environment not only sharpens our own capabilities, but makes
us stronger as a combined force. This ultimately enhances the Alliance's
ability to fight tonight."
A major objective of this large-scale employment exercise involved
increasing U.S. and ROK interoperability with dissimilar aircraft,
enabling aircrew members to be battle-ready for any potential situation.
"This was a golden opportunity to mission plan together and to better
understand each other's capabilities," said Lt. Col. Elika Bowmer,
Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 225 commanding officer.
"Putting all these units in one place and having face-to-face
conversations forces us to break down communication barriers and
exchange ideas, making us more tactically fit to counter any threats."
While Max Thunder exercises generally aim to strengthen interoperability
between U.S. and ROK airpower assets, a particular goal for this
exercise was to increase combined command and control and intelligence
"This was the first time we co-located our U.S. and ROKAF exercise staff
intel representatives, and this integration had an extremely positive
impact on our exercise scenarios," said Maj. Erik Axt, 7th Air Force
chief of training and Max Thunder 15-1 exercise director. "We were able
to plan and execute more sorties than at any previous Max Thunder, which
provided ample training opportunities for our pilots to practice
While Wolf Pack pilots flew multiple sorties throughout the two-week period, maintainers focused on getting the jets in the air.
"My mission is to make sure these jets fly," said Staff Sgt. Christopher
Conley, 8th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron jet engine mechanic. "It's an
amazing feeling being able to operate here at Gwangju with our ROKAF
brothers and sisters. I really appreciate the opportunity to learn from
them and see the differences between our operations. I look forward to
participating in future exercises with them."