Air Commandos train on Korean peninsula

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Aaron Cram
  • 353rd Special Operations Group
Members of the 353rd Special Operations Group braved the cold weather here to take advantage of various training opportunities on the Korean peninsula Feb. 9-13.

Sixteen members from the 17th Special Operations Squadron, the group's Forward Area Refueling Point Team, 353rd Maintenance Squadron and Detachment 3 of 25th Intelligence Squadron, flew to the peninsula aboard a MC-130P Combat Shadow to conduct air and ground refueling training, flight training, and aircraft maintenance to ensure they are ready to fulfill their duties as the only Air Force special operations unit permanently assigned in the U.S. Pacific Command theater.

During the trip, the crew flew missions over the peninsula with some subtle and major differences to missions they fly at home station. These missions included low-level flying, avoiding simulated ground threats and refueling U.S. Army MH-47 helicopters in the air and on the ground utilizing a forward area refueling point.

Capt. Nathan Dillon, a 17th SOS pilot, noted the difference in airspace, terrain and the opportunity to work with different units as major differences and key pieces to the necessity of the training.

"Korea is an ideal training environment for us to operate," he said. "It combines challenging weather, daunting terrain, airspace restrictions and various units you can't get anywhere else. The training we received here helps prepare us to operate almost anywhere."

For the group's Forward Area Refueling Point Team, the trip helped keep team members and loadmasters proficient in a highly limited and critical mission. FARP specialists transfer fuel from one aircraft to another in hostile and austere environments. The group's seven member FARP team works at one of five bases with an active FARP program.

"Every FARP site we work at has a different look and obstacles to consider when conducting refueling missions," said Master Sgt. Kirk Marcum, a 353rd SOG FARP team specialist. "Training in Korea allows us to test the equipment in the cold to ensure all seals and parts on the FAM cart are working properly and can handle the temperature fluctuation. We look forward to any opportunity we get to work at different locations with different aircraft helps us maintain our readiness."