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Letter to the Pack: Ops Air Force 2017

U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet 2nd Class Ryan Ramseyer climbs a ladder during a fire training challenge at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, July 11, 2017. During the course of approximately two weeks between their sophomore and junior years, cadets from the Academy visit bases around the Air Force to develop their knowledge of jobs they can apply for. The immersion program, known as Operation Air Force is vital to ensuring future leaders are aware of the jobs available to them and the impact their leadership will have once they commission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Michael Hunsaker/Released)

U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet 2nd Class Ryan Ramseyer climbs a ladder during a fire training challenge at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, July 11, 2017. During the course of approximately two weeks between their sophomore and junior years, cadets from the Academy visit bases around the Air Force to develop their knowledge of jobs they can apply for. The immersion program, known as Operation Air Force is vital to ensuring future leaders are aware of the jobs available to them and the impact their leadership will have once they commission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Michael Hunsaker/Released)

U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet 2nd Class Harry McMahon performs a push up in an explosive ordnance disposal suit at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, July 11, 2017 while U.S. Air Force E.O.D. members observe him during the cadet’s immersion visit. The visit was part of the Air Force Academy’s Operation Air Force program. Operation Air Force which takes rising juniors in the Air Force Academy to different bases across the Air Force to shadow and learn about their respective missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Michael Hunsaker/Released)

U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet 2nd Class Harry McMahon performs a push up in an explosive ordnance disposal suit at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, July 11, 2017 while U.S. Air Force E.O.D. members observe him during the cadet’s immersion visit. The visit was part of the Air Force Academy’s Operation Air Force program. Operation Air Force which takes rising juniors in the Air Force Academy to different bases across the Air Force to shadow and learn about their respective missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Michael Hunsaker/Released)

U.S. Air Force Academy Cadets discuss the role of public communications in the Air Force with Col. David Shoemaker, 8th Fighter Wing commander and Vladimir Duthiers, CBS correspondent July 10, 2017, at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea. The cadets had the opportunity to sit in and listen to an interview between Shoemaker and Duthiers as a part of their two and a half week immersion program, known as Operations Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Colville McFee/Released)

U.S. Air Force Academy Cadets discuss the role of public communications in the Air Force with Col. David Shoemaker, 8th Fighter Wing commander and Vladimir Duthiers, CBS correspondent July 10, 2017, at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea. The cadets had the opportunity to sit in and listen to an interview between Shoemaker and Duthiers as a part of their two and a half week immersion program, known as Operations Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Colville McFee/Released)

KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Wolf Pack,

You might have seen us around base for the last few weeks (and probably confused us for airman basics in the Dining Facility), but it’s finally time to introduce ourselves, if we haven’t already, and fully explain what we were doing here at Kunsan Air Base.

We are cadets from the United States Air Force Academy who had the privilege to spend the last two and a half weeks with you, the 8th Fighter Wing, as part of the “Operation Air Force” program. “Ops,” as we call it, allows cadets to experience the operational Air Force before we commit the next seven years of our lives to active duty service and submit our preferences for our jobs.

The 35th and 80th Fighter Squadrons acted as our hosts, but we shadowed officers and enlisted Airmen from a variety of career fields. While at Kunsan, we’ve flown with pilots, got our hands dirty with maintainers, watched an interview between Wolf and CBS, discussed the value of strategic communications, briefed with intel, been eagerly chased by military working dogs, and so much more.

While we have career days at the Academy, which provide the basic details of each Air Force job, spending time with Airmen executing real operations went much further in helping us decide what we want to do than any experience we’ve had before. Regardless of our job when we commission, we now have a better appreciation for how the entire base comes together to accomplish the mission.

We’ve met the Wolf, some of the most junior Airmen on base, our Republic of Korea Air Force allies, and everyone in between. At the Academy, we rarely interact with junior enlisted Airmen, so this was a valuable opportunity to learn what you contribute to the fight and how we can best support you as future officers.

We’ve always heard that the enlisted force was the “backbone of our Air Force” but didn’t quite understand it until we were turning wrenches and spotting targets alongside you. We can’t thank you enough for your mentorship.

All rising 2-degrees (Juniors) participate in Ops at an Air Force base, but we feel especially lucky to have been at Kunsan for ours.

The current military posture in the ROK allowed us to get a look at a laser-focused mission and understand how what we do as Airmen actually has an effect on a global scale. A trip to the DMZ gave us a newfound perspective on the peninsula’s tensions and history while a tour of the ROKAF’s 111th Fighter Squadron opened our eyes to how we interact with our allies. Moreover, our weekend excursions to Seoul and Busan illuminated the beautiful culture.

You work every day alongside the ROK to help protect their homeland. The absence of a stable environment for ROK citizens could not only jeopardize life but also the unique way of life and established identity of our Korean counterparts.

In closing, we would like to thank you, Wolf Pack, for hosting us these past few weeks.

To those Airmen (and soldiers) we specifically had the opportunity to work with, your enthusiasm and pride in what you do is contagious. You truly had an impact on our development and made us excited to serve with you in two short years when we commission. From the Security Forces Airmen who ate dinner with us to the people who gave us directions around base and welcomed us with open arms, we are grateful. We will take these experiences with us for the rest of our lives.

Thank you all. Wolf Pack!

//signed//
The Class of Armstrong
C2C Erica Barnett, C2C Nick Hurley, C2C Cat Malone, C2C Harry McMahon, C2C Ryan Ramseyer, and C2C Maddy Tung