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Kunsan takes flight at Max Thunder 15-1

An F-16 Fighting Falcon takes off from Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, to participate in Exercise Max Thunder 15-1 April 10, 2015, at Gwangju Air Base, ROK. The Wolf Pack joined other U.S. Air Force, Marine Corps and ROKAF flying units to integrate with dissimilar aircraft and practice realistic combat scenarios as one large force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Taylor Curry/Released)

An F-16 Fighting Falcon takes off from Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, to participate in Exercise Max Thunder 15-1 April 10, 2015, at Gwangju Air Base, ROK. The Wolf Pack joined other U.S. Air Force, Marine Corps and ROKAF flying units to integrate with dissimilar aircraft and practice realistic combat scenarios as one large force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Taylor Curry/Released)

8th Fighter Wing Airmen load luggage into a truck after receiving a deployment briefing at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, April 10, 2015. Approximately 170 Wolf Pack personnel departed for Gwangju Air Base,ROK, to participate in Exercise Max Thunder 15-1, the largest flying exercise held on the Korean Peninsula. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Taylor Curry/Released)

8th Fighter Wing Airmen load luggage into a truck after receiving a deployment briefing at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, April 10, 2015. Approximately 170 Wolf Pack personnel departed for Gwangju Air Base,ROK, to participate in Exercise Max Thunder 15-1, the largest flying exercise held on the Korean Peninsula. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Taylor Curry/Released)

A Republic of Korea Air Force KF-16 takes off for a large force exercise sortie during Exercise Max Thunder 15-1 at Gwangju Air Base, Republic of Korea, April 17, 2015. Max Thunder is a regularly scheduled flying exercise held twice per year and is the largest flying exercise held on the Korean Peninsula. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Taylor Curry/Released)

A Republic of Korea Air Force KF-16 takes off for a large force exercise sortie during Exercise Max Thunder 15-1 at Gwangju Air Base, Republic of Korea, April 17, 2015. Max Thunder is a regularly scheduled flying exercise held twice per year and is the largest flying exercise held on the Korean Peninsula. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Taylor Curry/Released)

F/A-18 Hornet pilots from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 225 start up their jets for a sortie during Exercise Max Thunder 15-1 at Gwangju Air Base, Republic of Korea, April 16, 2015. Max Thunder is a regularly scheduled training exercise designed to enhance readiness of U.S. and ROK air forces to defend the ROK. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Taylor Curry/Released)

F/A-18 Hornet pilots from Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 225 start up their jets for a sortie during Exercise Max Thunder 15-1 at Gwangju Air Base, Republic of Korea, April 16, 2015. Max Thunder is a regularly scheduled training exercise designed to enhance readiness of U.S. and ROK air forces to defend the ROK. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Taylor Curry/Released)

Staff sergeants Christopher Conley and Bobby Reed, 8th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron jet engine mechanics, work on an F-16 Fighting Falcon during Exercise Max Thunder 15-1 at Gwangju Air Base, Republic of Korea, April 21, 2015. Max Thunder is a regularly scheduled training exercise designed to enhance the readiness of U.S. and ROK air forces to defend the ROK. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Taylor Curry/Released)

Staff sergeants Christopher Conley and Bobby Reed, 8th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron jet engine mechanics, work on an F-16 Fighting Falcon during Exercise Max Thunder 15-1 at Gwangju Air Base, Republic of Korea, April 21, 2015. Max Thunder is a regularly scheduled training exercise designed to enhance the readiness of U.S. and ROK air forces to defend the ROK. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Taylor Curry/Released)

U.S. Marine Corps pilots from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 225, currently deployed to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, conduct pre-flight inspections of their F/A-18 Hornets during Exercise Max Thunder 15-1 at Gwangju Air Base, Republic of Korea, April 17, 2015. Max Thunder is a large-scale employment exercise designed to increase U.S. and ROK interoperability and ultimately enhance commitments to maintain peace in the region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Taylor Curry/Released)

U.S. Marine Corps pilots from Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 225, currently deployed to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, conduct pre-flight inspections of their F/A-18 Hornets during Exercise Max Thunder 15-1 at Gwangju Air Base, Republic of Korea, April 17, 2015. Max Thunder is a large-scale employment exercise designed to increase U.S. and ROK interoperability and ultimately enhance commitments to maintain peace in the region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Taylor Curry/Released)

An F-16 Fighting Falcon from Osan Air Base takes off during Exercise Max Thunder 15-1 at Gwangju Air Base, Republic of Korea, April 17, 2015. Max Thunder is a large-scale employment exercise designed to increase U.S. and ROK interoperability and ultimately enhance commitments to maintain peace in the region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Taylor Curry/Released)

An F-16 Fighting Falcon from Osan Air Base takes off during Exercise Max Thunder 15-1 at Gwangju Air Base, Republic of Korea, April 17, 2015. Max Thunder is a large-scale employment exercise designed to increase U.S. and ROK interoperability and ultimately enhance commitments to maintain peace in the region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Taylor Curry/Released)

Col. Ken “Wolf” Ekman, 8th Fighter Wing commander, speaks to pilots after a flight brief during Exercise Max Thunder 15-1 at Gwangju Air Base, Republic of Korea, April 21, 2015. The Wolf Pack joined other U.S. Air Force, Marine Corps and ROKAF flying units to integrate with dissimilar aircraft and practice realistic combat scenarios as one large force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Taylor Curry/Released)

Col. Ken “Wolf” Ekman, 8th Fighter Wing commander, speaks to pilots after a flight brief during Exercise Max Thunder 15-1 at Gwangju Air Base, Republic of Korea, April 21, 2015. The Wolf Pack joined other U.S. Air Force, Marine Corps and ROKAF flying units to integrate with dissimilar aircraft and practice realistic combat scenarios as one large force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Taylor Curry/Released)

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 10-24.

"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 coordination.

"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 combined operations."

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."