News: Yokota brings combat airlift to Max Thunder
Story by 2nd Lt. Ashley Wright
GWANGJU AIR BASE, South Korea - Over the past two weeks, Yokota Airmen have been working around the clock flying C-130H aircraft in and out of Gwangju Air Base, Republic of Korea, in support of Exercise Max Thunder.
Max Thunder is the air component portion of Exercise Foal Eagle, a series of joint exercises that integrate ground, air, naval, expeditionary and special operations. The exercise cultivates the U.S. and ROK partnership and enhances combat readiness through bilateral air operations drills.
Yokota's mission during the exercise is to demonstrate and sharpen the base's combat airlift capabilities in a simulated contingency operation.
"Max Thunder gives our Airmen a chance to experience the role of combat airlift within a bilateral operating environment," said Col. Mark August, 374th Airlift Wing commander, "Exercises like this also showcase what we bring to the field as tactical airlift professionals."
The training plays a critical role in promoting peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and reaffirms the U.S. commitment to stability in the Pacific region. Yokota Airmen say that this exercise offers a more realistic set of operational challenges for aircrews to overcome.
"The challenge of these large-formation exercises is integrating with a lot of different Air Force assets," said Capt. Travis Patton, 36th Airlift Squadron air support director of international exercises. "Max Thunder is unique in that we're staging from Japan to fight in Korea; it requires more planning, but it is a realistic scenario if you look at how we've fought in previous conflicts."
Exercises like Max Thunder help to ensure Yokota Airmen are trained and ready to meet any contingency.
"We don't get to work with the ROKAF very often, so this is a great opportunity to integrate our forces and ultimately improve our interoperability," Patton said.
As the Western Pacific airlift hub, Yokota regularly participates in regional and local readiness exercises aimed at promoting interoperability and ensuring stability in the Pacific.
"Our Airmen play a vital role in demonstrating U.S. resolve in this dynamic part of the world," August said. "Max Thunder has been another great way for us to engage with our allies and maintain our readiness here at Yokota."