KUNSAN AIR BASE, South Korea – It’s not often that siblings serve in the military simultaneously, and it’s even more rare when their duty assignments converge. But that’s what happened for the Allen brothers, who were recently reunited here for Exercise Max Thunder 15-1.
Marine Corps Capt. Jarrod Allen is an F/A-18 Hornet pilot stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego and currently deployed to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan. Air Force Capt. Jacob Allen is an F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot stationed at Kunsan Air Base. They had the opportunity to fly and train together during the biannual air exercise at Gwangju Air Base, South Korea.
"Since we are in different services and fly different fighter aircraft, we haven't really had the chance to work with each other in this type of element yet, so we were glad to have this opportunity," Jarrod said.
Different Jets, Similar Missions
Jarrod, known as "Bluto," and Jacob, known as "Apollo," fly different aircraft, but have similar missions.
The first night of Max Thunder would see the brothers training together in defensive counter-air exercises. In that scenario, Jacob led the first group of four allied jets, whose task was to defend the area from enemy aircraft. As their time on station neared completion, the second group approached the airspace to assume responsibility, and Jarrod was their lead pilot.
"The handoff of responsibility is based on timing, so it has to be precise," Jacob said. "When the second four-ship approached, I got to pass responsibility to my brother over the radio, who was then in charge of defending the area."
The brothers grew up as Navy brats, originally from the San Diego area. Their father was a naval flight officer for the E-2 Hawkeye, which motivated them to follow in his footsteps.
"Our dad was a big inspiration to us," Jacob said. "As far back as I can remember, I always knew I wanted to fly, just like my father. We would always go to see airshows, and that was so exciting for us both."
Helping Ground Troops
Both brothers explained that they love their job primarily because in the end, what they do helps people.
"The F-16 provides close air support when troops on the ground call in, and we employ weapons as needed for them to achieve their mission objectives and most importantly, to survive," Jacob said.
The F/A-18 is also focused on supporting ground forces, Jarrod said, with the main goal looking out for Marines on the ground.
"My current mission out at Kunsan flying the F-16 and working alongside [Republic of Korea Air Force] pilots is a great opportunity," Jacob said. "It's sometimes challenging, but I love it because it keeps me sharp. If I'm ever called to do what I'm trained to do, I'll be ready."
Although they haven’t been stationed together, the brothers occasionally bump into each other while on the job.
"Before this exercise, the last time we saw each other was in Jordan for a couple of hours," Jarrod said. "It wasn't long, but it's still good to see my brother any chance I get."
Max Thunder is the largest flying exercise held on the Korean Peninsula. Held twice yearly, it is aimed at increasing U.S. and South Korean interoperability with dissimilar aircraft, enabling the two allies to be battle-ready.