OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Airmen from the 731st Air Mobility Squadron were key players recently in the first delivery of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles to U.S. Forces in Korea.
The squadron helped deliver the first five MRAP vehicles to U.S. Army units stationed on the peninsula in early July 2012 for use in exercise Ulchi Freedom Guardian, the world's largest command and control simulation exercise involving U.S. joint forces, Republic of Korea forces, and seven United Nations countries.
"During [the exercise], we began initial testing of the MRAP to determine its viability for integration into current 2nd Infantry Division formations," said Lt. Col. Joe Scrocca, 2nd ID headquartered at Camp Red Cloud in Uijeongbu. "There is no other place on the globe where the potential for large-scale, full-spectrum conflict exists on a daily basis like it does on the Korean peninsula, and the MRAPs provide increased level of force protection for our Soldiers that better enables them to accomplish their mission."
While the MRAP is not a new concept in the Department of Defense, the delivery was the first for USFK, explained Scrocca. Ulchi Guardian, which began Aug. 16, marked the start of an MRAP concept on the Korean peninsula expected to last six months.
Special handling from the 731st AMS ensured that offloading the 28-ton vehicles went smoothly for both the aircraft crew and the vehicles.
"It's definitely not something that you do every day," said Tech. Sgt. Chad Huggins, assigned to the 731st AMS special handling section, of the first three vehicles delivered aboard an Antonov An-124 Russian aircraft. Similar in design to a C-5 Galaxy, the Ukrainian An-124 has a 25 percent larger payload than its American counterpart. "We used this as a great training opportunity for everyone involved, especially those that haven't handled such large items on military aircraft."
Huggins technical expertise, along with Senior Airmen Johnny Barber and Austin Sissel's MRAP training gained after recent deployments in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, was critical in maneuvering the heavy vehicles off the aircraft.
The 731st AMS commander, Lt. Col. Russ Gorecki, fully appreciates his unit is at the tip of the spear when it comes to joint efforts to support the ROK/U.S. Combined Forces Command during periods of armistice and contingency operations.
"I'm proud we aided in the download of the MRAP's historic first arrival into the Republic of Korea," he said. "This is a clear sign of U.S. re-balance and continued commitment to the Asia-Pacific region for a 21st century defense. I thank the men and women of the 731st AMS who work hard every day to safely accelerate global air mobility through Korea, and I'm glad we were able to assist 2ID in their mission as well."