Skaters bring community, kickflips to Wolf Pack
By Staff Sgt. Mya M. Crosby, 8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published October 19, 2021
KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea --
Service members frequently consider one another brothers and sisters in arms when they share blood, sweat and tears in service to their country. Coincidentally, those same sacrifices are made at the skatepark of Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea.
The park has brought U.S. Army Soldiers and U.S. Air Force Airmen together outside of the active mission at the Wolf Pack where they can bond through the art of skateboarding.
“When I first got here to Korea, I would come to the skatepark and it was lonely,” said U.S. Army Private First Class Antonio Hernandez, 2nd Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery wheeled vehicle mechanic.
The park, empty and cold, much like the winter season, began to show promise for Hernandez as time marched on.
“When the summer hit, I saw some of the other guys out there, and I got added to a group chat,” he said. “We skate with each other almost every day now.”
Nearly every day after work now, Hernandez and his fellow skaters gather at the Wolf Pack Skatepark. They all dedicate their last hours of sunlight to trying new tricks, then rest to do it all again the next day.
“When you finally land that trick… Whether you fall on the ground or you land it, you’re reminded of what it’s like to truly feel like you’re alive,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Troy Foster, 8th Communications Squadron network control center technician. “You finally did that after so many attempts.”
The Airmen and Soldiers who gather at the park are ultimately proud of the skills they achieve, why? Because it takes practice and determination.
“The skateboard park is a place to learn,” Hernandez explained. “[These skaters] have a determination to learn something.”
Across the board, these brothers-in-arms have all recognized the hardships skating, let alone military life, can bring, and use their daily sessions as opportunities to uplift each other.
“Skating is hard,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Davin Horsley, 8th Security Forces Squadron evaluator. “It takes a lot of mental fortitude and determination to try and land a trick. The process of growing as a skater is hard, and everybody knows that. When you see someone struggling, we understand because we’ve all been there.
“Nobody can just get on a skateboard and start busting out tricks like Tony Hawk,” Horsley continued. “Everybody has started off barely being able to push down the street. You’re going to fall and you’re going to get hurt and everybody that skates knows and feels that. I think that’s what brings us all together.”
It can be said the bonds of being together in military service can transcend those of everyday hobbies or skills. However, being part of the Kunsan skating community means a great deal to those within it.
“The community is everything to me,” Foster said. “I’ve only been skating for a year, but I used to come out here alone until I met them and it changed my whole experience here at Kunsan. Ever since I started skating with them, I feel motivated.”
Whether you can hardly stand up on a skateboard, or execute an advanced trick like a 180-degree spin effortlessly, the rules of the skating community don’t change: You will always be welcome as a member of the pack.
“Once you start, you’ll always be a part of the group,” Horsley said. “For example “Phoenix” (Col. Todd Wydra, 8th Maintenance Group commander), who hasn’t skateboarded in so long, is still down for the culture. He showed up one day in OCPs and got on his board with us. It doesn’t stop. It just doesn’t end here.
“I’ve grown to love skateboarding, not because it's some sport, but because of the community and culture,” he continued. “I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”