Far from home, stellar Airman supports ROK-US alliance
By Staff Sgt. Benjamin Rojek, 7th AF Public Affairs
/ Published March 17, 2009
OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Stepping out of a comfort zone even a little bit can broaden a person's horizons. Imagine what moving 6,000 miles outside of that zone will do.
Such is the case for Capt. James Pitney, an officer deployed here from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., for the Key Resolve/Foal Eagle exercise.
Captain Pitney, who works with the 595th Space Group at his home station, is currently working for the 607th Air Operations Center, 7th Air Force (Air Forces Korea) here. While at his home station in California he works with intercontinental ballistic missiles; in Korea , he's working with space communications, global positioning systems, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
"It's 180 degrees apart," Captain Pitney said. "(At Vandenberg), it's a very controlled environment with minimal flexibility to ensure the most accurate reporting on the weapon system to (Air Force Space Command). Conversely, the Key Resolve (command and control) exercise here on 'The Pen' has a greater degree of flexibility in the responsiveness to any given situation due to there being many parties involved - the four U.S. branches, the ROK forces and the enemy forces."
It's the exercise's "enemy forces" that have kept him on his toes the most, he said. While there are in-place processes to execute the space mission, predicting enemy movements is tricky business. Therefore, his reactions must be tailored and executed much more quickly to counter and overcome the enemy.
While perfecting his reaction time to enemy actions, Captain Pitney is also gathering more experience working with U.S. and Korean counterparts in other military branches, especially the Army and Navy.
"We have Army guys deployed to different locations that liaison with Air Force space guys for space requests," said the captain, who has worked with ICBMs for 14 years. "As Air Force guys, we can provide that reach-back to (Joint Forces Component Command Space), to the (Joint Space Operations Center) at Vandenberg or other agencies back in (the U.S.), saying 'Hey we need this information, we need this product.'"
Another customer, and fellow provider, of these space products during the exercise is the Republic of Korea. Maj. Yoon, Suk-Bo, Captain Pitney's counterpart in the ROK Air Force, is currently learning the Space Integration Team process within the 607th AOC divisions. As a permanent party member here, Major Yoon meets with his U.S. counterparts twice a day to exchange information and make sure they're on the same page to further and better integrate space for the benefit of possible contingencies. During this exercise, the major is getting a chance to work with Captain Pitney to test out these processes.
"He's taking notes on the processes and the information that's exchanged so that he can help develop space processes for the ROK side," Captain Pitney said. "This is a real test of the processes that go on between the divisions."
It's been a test of his skills, as well. After years of working with missiles while both enlisted and commissioned, the captain is now getting to focus on the space mission.
"As a 14-year ICBM guy, I'm getting to touch the space part as a space professional," Captain Pitney said. "The combat-proven success of space capabilities in recent history is a testament to the necessity of space capabilities across all branches and during all levels of combat engagements."
The biggest thing for him, however, is sharing those capabilities and working with ROK and sister-service counterparts.
"Working with all these forces to coordinate actions toward the common goal of maintaining the armistice and preparing for a potential contingency is awesome," the captain said.
The Key Resolve/Foal Eagle exercise Captain Pitney is supporting serves as the first major training exercise of the year for U.S. forces in Korea. The exercise provides an opportunity to enhance ROK-U.S. combat readiness, as well as joint and combined interoperability. KR/FE is an annual command post exercise held by U.S. Forces Korea and the Republic of Korea Armed Forces.