Story by Joseph Siemandel, Joint Forces Headquarters, Washington National Guard.
An F-16 is one of the most prolific fighter jets in the world. It’s also super expensive.
And while pilots may get all the attention, the teams on the ground that help ensure the safety and security of these jets are just as important.
For the Airmen of the 194th Security Forces Squadron, this was their story during Exercise Cobra Gold in Thailand recently.
“Our team worked at night, so we enjoyed the quiet of the flight lines,” said Tech. Sgt. James Johnson, 194th Security Forces Squadron and team lead for five members of the 194th SFS who attended Cobra Gold 19 in Thailand. “Our primary mission was guarding F-16 jets from Kunsan Air Base and build relationship with our Thai counterparts.”
Even though security forces is one of the largest career fields in the Air Force, this was the first time security forces was included in Exercise Cobra Gold.
“For my team, this was the first time any of us had been to Thailand,” said Johnson. “We ensured that at night when the pilots left the flight line and the jets were left alone, that no one messed with them.”
It’s not the most glamorous mission, as Johnson detailed, but an important one nonetheless; each F-16 “Fighting Falcon” costs nearly $18.8 million dollars.
“Really, our main focus was to ensure the jets weren’t tampered with,” said Johnson.
The 35th Fighter Squadron flew from Kunsan Air Base, South Korea to Korat Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand. The 35th FS, which was previously based at Korat AB in the early 1960s, was training with partner nations and conducting both air-to-air and air-to-ground operations to increase interoperability and reinforce critical skills.
This was the first time, but won’t be the last time the 194th SFS takes part in Exercise Cobra Gold.
“We have already been asked and will come back in 2020,” said Johnson. “Our guys are excited to get back and continue to showcase what we do.”