8th Fighter Wing and Kunsan Air Base
The 8th Fighter Wing is the host unit at Kunsan Air Base. The wing is known as the Wolf Pack, hence the WP code worn by all F-16s of both 8th Operations Group squadrons (35th and 80th). The wings motto; Defend the Base, Accept Follow-On Forces, Take the Fight North.
Originally established as the 8th Fighter Wing on 10 August 1948, the wing saw only a couple of name changes until it was designated 8th Fighter Wing again on 3 February 1992. Being involved in the Korean and Vietnam wars the unit saw various home bases obviously (in Japan, South Korea, North Korea [Pyongyang], the USA and Thailand). From Thailand the wing moved to Kunsan on 16 September 1974. An administrative move only, absorbing all assets of the 3rd TFW at Kunsan. This included the two flying squadrons, the 35th and 80th Tactical Fighter Squadron, reuniting the wing with two of its original squadrons.
The nickname Wolf Pack stems from the time when Col Robin Olds was the wing commander. This was from 30 September 1966 until 23 September 1967, when the wing operated from Udon Air Field in Thailand. Olds is famous for Operation Bolo in 2 January 1967, during which seven VPAF MiG-21s were destroyed.
The wing operates from Kunsan Air Base, located on the West side of South Korea, about 120 miles South of Seoul. Kunsan Air Base was originally built by the Japanese in 1938. The base was in limited US use between 1945 and 1949 and the US Forces left South Korea. In July 1950, soon after the Korean Conflict started, the base was occupied by North Korean forces. It was recaptured again by the US Army on 30 September 1950. From 22 August 1951 the 3rd Bombardment Wing was the first wing assigned to the base (flying B-26 Invaders).
After the Korean Conflict until 1965 the base is mainly used as a temporary host base for units. In 1965 the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) assigns a squadron to the base flying the F-86 Sabre. Then the only permanently based flying unit for the base. Soon after North Korea captured the USS Pueblo in January 1968, the US started the build up of forces in South Korea and Kunsan saw the 4th Tactical Fighter Wing arriving for its deployment, followed by the 354th TFW, the 54th TFW and the 3rd TFW (which transformed into the current 8th FW Wolf Pack). Today the base employs around 2,700 people (Air Force Members, Army soldiers, US civilians and local national and non-appropriated employees).
The ROKAF calls Kunsan home as well, symbolising the alliance between the US and Korea. The base is home to the ROKAF 38th Fighter Group, operating F-16C/D Block 52 aircraft within the 111th Fighter Squadron.
Col. David G. Shoemaker, the 8th FW, describes the specifics of the base as follows; “The ironclad alliance between the US and Republic of Korea is evident in everything we do. Here at Kunsan Air Base, we train with the 38th Fighter Group of the ROKAF. We enjoy friendships at a personal level while providing for the collective defense of the peninsula and the region. The USAF and ROKAF also work side-by-side in the Air Component headquarters. The saying “Katchi Kapshida” (“We Go Together”), is strong at every level. This is my third yearlong assignment to Kunsan AB in the past 12 years, and the capability of the ROKAF/USAF has improved exponentially in that time. We’ve developed our ability to train and fight together through Red Flags and our Peninsula-wide exercises Max Thunder and Vigilant Ace. Our goal is the same: peace on the peninsula. We hone our craft and ensure our readiness to deter attack. But if called upon to defend our neighbors and allies, may God have mercy on the Wolf Pack’s prey.”