Readiness and Relationships

  • Published
  • By Capt. Kyle Moore and Senior Master Sgt. Eduardo Zepeda, Jr.
  • JBER Public Affairs

The Arctic Engineers of the 673rd Civil Engineer Group, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, traveled to Gwangju Air Base, Korea in April to conduct a week-long base resiliency training event with local Republic of Korea (ROK) Air Force engineers.

The purpose of the event was to train and execute integrated base contingency operations focused on recovering the airfield after an attack. The training builds on the strategic United States-ROK alliance that was founded by the Mutual Defense Treaty signed between both nations in 1953. Today’s unified engineers continue to strengthen Korea’s role as a regional security partner.

The team began the week by sharing the new Rapid Airfield Damage Repair (RADR) process with their ROK counterparts. ROK engineers practice large crater repairs similar to the legacy airfield damage repair (ADR), methods previously utilized by U.S. Air Force engineers. The new RADR method focuses on repairing hundreds of small craters over the course of several hours. This process involves more personnel and equipment, ultimately requiring joint operations with the host nation.

To effectively communicate the new repair process to ROKAF engineers, the team developed “a combination of audio, visual and hands-on demonstrations to advance the short window of training,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Joe Austin, RADR team lead. “Additionally, the ROKAF partners had amazing aptitude to learn and adjust to the new methods.”

After a concept brief and table-top discussion, the ROKAF engineers began familiarization training with the vehicles and equipment required to perform the process. With this new knowledge, U.S. Air Force and ROKAF engineers were ready to execute the airfield damage recovery training scenario.

The U.S.-ROK integrated team started the scenario by assessing the mock damage on the airfield. The Rapid Airfield Damage Assessment System (RADAS) drone flew an assessment flight over the active runway at Gwangju. This was the first time a RADAS drone conducted operations over a Korean-controlled civilian and military runway.

The operator showcased the drone’s capabilities by easily spotting small cones placed on the runway to act as simulated crates. In real-word situations, this Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) can be deployed quickly to provide a clear site picture of airfield conditions for a complete and accurate assessment of damage on the runway.

Following RADAS, Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) teams conducted a sweep to mitigate simulated unexploded ordinances (UXO) on the mock airfield. The RADR team filled a front-end loader bucket with flowable fill to serve as a reinforced barrier to push UXOs off the runway and deflect the blast from undetonated UXOs. U.S. Air Force and ROKAF EOD personnel operated this front-end loader with concrete encased buckets to push the simulated UXOs away from the crater repair. Simultaneously, U.S. and ROKAF engineering assistants (EAs) plotted the damage received from the RADAS operations and selected the most suitable minimum operating strip (MOS) to receive simulated incoming aircraft. The selection of the MOS is crucial in determining the crater repair order for the RADR team.

A quick convoy brief was given and the integrated RADR team jumped into action after receiving the MOS selection. The team was comprised of U.S. and ROK operators working together to complete each step of the process. With a few practice repairs under their belt from the previous day, the integrated team was able to complete three small craters and ten spall repairs in less than three hours and enable the runway to receive aircraft in five hours.

The culmination of this event provides a great opportunity for U.S. Air Force and ROKAF personnel to work toward a common goal. The U.S. - ROKAF alliance is a force multiplier in the Korean theater and plays a critical role in meeting global challenges. The Arctic Engineers strive to continue enhancing this relationship and increase the base recovery readiness on the peninsula.