South Carolina Air National Guard deploys to South Korea for Theater Security Package
By 1st Lt. Stephen Hudson, 169th Fighter Wing
/ Published July 17, 2016
MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. -- Nearly 300 Swamp Fox Airmen packed their bags and waved goodbye to family and friends July 13, as the South Carolina Air National Guard's 169th Fighter Wing deployed 12 F-16s to Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea for a four-month Theater Security Package.
The U.S. Air Force routinely deploys fighter aircraft to the region to provide U.S. Pacific Command and Pacific Air Forces with Theater Security Packages, which help maintain a deterrent against threats to regional security and stability. Movement of U.S. Air Force TSPs into the region have been a routine and integral part of U.S. PACOM's force posture since March 2004.
"This Theater Security Package is a routine deployment for us," said Col. Nick Gentile, 169th Fighter Wing commander. "We are there both to work with our allies and bolster regional defenses."
These theater security packages demonstrate the continuing U.S. commitment to stability and security in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. The Theater Security Package concept is used both in the Pacific and Europe to reassure allies within the region. While at Osan, the Swamp Fox pilots will fly alongside their counterparts with the 51st Fighter Wing and international partners.
"It also allows us to strengthen those regional ties and alliances we have, and to work with ally air forces, multi-national as well as collation and joint services over there in different exercises that will really help if we are ever called back to that theater," Gentile said.
Moving large amounts of equipment, jets and people was no easy feat, and it took months of planning from the 169th Logistics Readiness Squadron, Operations Group and Force Support Squadron for the weeks' worth of work done to deploy the Swamp Fox unit. Gentile lauded the efforts of all the Airmen who planned and executed the deployment processing.
The deployment process was managed by the 169th Logistics Readiness Squadron.
The fighter wing has been preparing for this deployment since October 2015, said 1st Lt. Elizabeth Hewett, installation deployment officer, with the 169th Fighter Wing.
"The amount of cargo we're taking is huge, it's enough to support 12 jets at any given time in the location," Hewett said.
It took a combination of civilian-contracted and military heavy transport aircraft to carry the Airmen and their equipment to Osan half a world away from South Carolina. These included Boeing a 747 and a 767, three C-17 Globemaster III, and two C-5 Galaxy aircraft.
"As with our last PACAF deployment in 2006 [to Japan], this deployment should also be an excellent opportunity for our unit to engage and train with our partner nations while providing our Suppression and Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD/DEAD) expertise," Gentile said.
Worldwide deployments are nothing new for the South Carolina Air National Guard. Since Sept. 11, 2001, the men and women of the South Carolina Air National Guard have deployed multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan. In June 2015, the unit traveled to Poland for a month of training alongside Polish air forces. This is the first TSP deployment for the Swamp Fox unit to South Korea.