MAX THUNDER 17 comes to a close

by Lance Cpl. Carlos Jimenez
U.S. Marine Corps

KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- U.S. Marines with Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 311 concluded Exercise MAX THUNDER 17 with U.S. and Republic of Korea Air Force units at Kunsan Air Base, ROK, April 27, 2017.

Max Thunder is an exercise built to promote interoperability between U.S. and ROK forces that helps ensure the defense and security of the Asia-Pacific region and reaffirms U.S. commitment to stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

The exercise is held annually and is the second largest military flying exercise held in Korea. It is designed to train allied air forces to quickly generate overwhelming air power under realistic conditions.

“Max Thunder serves as an invaluable opportunity for U.S. and ROKAF forces to train together shoulder-to-shoulder and sharpen tactical skills vital to the defense and security of the Korean Peninsula,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas W. Bergeson, Seventh Air Force commander.

VMA-311 and MAG-12 worked with USAF and ROKAF on maintenance, aviation and planning to execute joint operational flying missions and sorties. They also acted as subject matter experts for the AV-8B Harriers used in the exercise and assisted in the planning of how to effectively use the aircraft.

U.S. Marine Corps Harrier pilots combined forces with ROK and U.S. Air Force pilots and executed mission sets such as defensive counter air, close air support and long-range strikes. The exercise lasted two weeks and included more than 800 combat training sorties flown.

“Overall it was a very high workload,” said U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Daniel Ford, an AV-8B Harrier pilot with VMA-311. “There were a lot of aircraft in the same piece of sky at once. You can’t get this training anywhere else. It was very unique and challenging.”

Participants said Max Thunder was an opportunity to learn from other units and improve mutual understanding and cooperation between the U.S. and ROK forces.

“Working with the other units has been a really good learning experience,” said U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Glenn Miltenberg, an F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot with the 35th Fighting Squadron. “It’s really great to see the capabilities of other units throughout the U.S. military as well as with the ROKAF units.”

Following the conclusion of the exercise, commanders from both nations’ forces held a final brief where they congratulated the participants and expressed their gratitude for their combined efforts in the planning and execution of Max Thunder.

“It was very impressive to watch our two nations fly and train together,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Sean Routier, vice commander of the 8th Fighter Wing. “The more opportunities we get to train together will make us better as a team, make us more interoperable and also increase our passion. I look forward to participating in Max Thunder next year.”

ROKAF Col. Lee Bum-Chul, chief of the exercise and training division for Air Force Operations Command, shared Routier’s sentiments and mentioned the fact that he believed their objectives were met and that the exercise was a success. He attributed the success to the hard work of the participants and for their ability to work together.

“I wish for us to keep the trust and friendship we accumulated over the past two weeks in our hearts and develop it further,” said Lee. “For the lessons we learned, I wish for the participants of this exercise to share it with their colleagues back in their home bases, so that for the next Max Thunder, we can have a much better exercise.”

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