KUNSAN AIR BASE, South Korea —  

During the combined flying training event known as Vigilant Defense 24, more than 25 various types of fighters, cargo, tanker and reconnaissance aircraft from the U.S., South Korea and Royal Australian Air Force are conducting flight operations from South Korea and U.S. bases across the peninsula Oct. 30 – Nov. 3.

Vigilant Defense is designed to enhance combined training and to ensure Airmen remain safe in the sky and on the ground by air traffic controllers like U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Paul Gary, 8th Operations Support Squadron air traffic controller senior watch supervisor.

“As air traffic controllers, we have to be proficient at coordinating all airframes from fighter to cargo, military or civilian,” Gary said. “We’re always prepared for whatever may come our way, including an increase in air traffic operations during a contingency operation because for us it would be nothing more than practicing how we play.”

The center component of Kunsan Air Base’s three-part mission is to “Accept Follow-on Forces” and during a contingency operation, ATC’s ability to coordinate increased flight operations is vital to ensuring efficient and safe reception of those forces.

“I think it is important for Airmen to step away from exercises like this with the ability to remain flexible in situations that take you outside of your comfort zone. You may have to adapt and follow someone else’s lead in a dynamic situation, and doing so could be the difference in saving or losing lives while coordinating aircraft.”

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Paul Gary, 8th Operations Support Squadron Air Traffic Controller Senior Watch Supervisor

Controllers provide pilots with their flight and landing information along with weather reports all while deconflicting landing and air space congestion within their zone of responsibility. Gary explains how working together is essential to performing ATC operations.

“Building teams is particularly important,” Gary said. “The person on your left and right needs to be on the same page as you.”

Combat flying training events are regularly scheduled training events designed to enhance the readiness of U.S. and South Korea forces and sustain capabilities, which strengthen the South Korea-U.S. alliance.

By TSgt Emili Koonce, 8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Photos by SSgt Samuel Earick

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