Horsham Air Guard undergoes exercise, real-world tension during SKorea training event

  • Published
  • By Col. Thomas James, 111th Air Operations Group commander
  • 111th Attack Wing
From August 17 - 28, 2015, members of the 111th Attack Wing deployed to Osan Air Base, South Korea, for Exercise Ulchi Freedom Guardian 2015.

Ulchi Freedom Guardian is the annual Republic of Korea and U.S. Forces Korea defense-oriented exercise designed to enhance Combined Forces Command's readiness, protect the region and maintain stability on the Korean peninsula.

The second of two Korean deployments for the 111th ATKW this year alone, UFG 15 involved 30,000 U.S. troops alongside 50,000 South Korean counterparts. Members from around the 111th ATKW and 193rd Force Support Squadron, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, were integrated into the Air Force forces staff, a medical group, a security forces unit, a simulation cell and many other duties.

Working 12-hour rotating shifts on both the exercise and during real world tensions, UFG 15 featured a number of scenarios and training. The operations were meant to improve response to military strikes, potential terrorist attacks, and the use of chemical or biological weapons in major South Korean cities.

During the 111th ATKW's time in Korea, real world tensions were at a 20-year high; and North Korean mines seriously wounded two South Korean border guards. North and South military forces exchanged artillery fire along the de-militarized zone, air defense aircraft were airborne on combat air patrol. According to open news sources, more than 50 North Korean submarines -70 percent of their fleet - set sail from their bases as tensions rose. North Korea had also ordered its front-line troops onto a war footing during this drastic rise in tensions. 

News sources cited that North Korea saw the exercises as a veiled threat of war. The source stated that Kim Jong-un, the supreme leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, had vowed to respond with the "strongest military counteraction" if UFG 15 was not canceled. 

UFG 15, however, pushed on.

There were seven United Nations Sending States participating in UFG 15: Australia, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, France, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.  Also, the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission monitored UFG 15 to ensure its compliance with the Korean Armistice Agreement, signed in 1953.

So, despite the threats and real-world military action taken against the region, the Pa. Air National Guard and participating entities completed their mission. Once again, continuing forward with operations, the 111th ATKW and its members displayed professionalism and dedication at home and abroad. (Editor's Note: The 111th Attack Wing Public Affairs office contributed to this article)