Colorado airmen protect the Pacific region in Japan

Colorado pilots help protect the Pacific
Posted at 11:19 PM, Jun 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-16 01:19:12-04

OKINAWA, Japan -- Members of the Colorado Air National Guard 140th Wing are now on duty in Okinawa, Japan. 

Denver7 reporter Marc Stewart was given access to the airmen at the Kadena Air Force base in Japan, far from their home base of Buckley Air Force base in Aurora.

Approximately 250 airmen and six F-16 Fighting Falcons have now been situated in the country. 

Part of what’s known as a TSP, Theater Security Package, the international assignment is part of a longstanding U.S. agreement to keep peace in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. A commitment that dates back to 2004. That includes current threats from North Korea and the build up of Chinese ships off the Japanese coast. The hope being, the mere presence of military might serve a deterrent to potential trouble makers.

“Anytime we get a chance to deploy in an active duty arena, we take great pride in that, we look forward to it and welcome it,” said maintenance director Major David Overstreet.

The days can be long. Pilots spend about six hours in the cockpit, with the sole mission of keeping the region stable.

“The F-16’s here, arguably is the most exciting most fun aircraft you can fly. It’s outstanding,” said Lt. Col. Chris Southard, Detachment Commander and pilot. “They’re probably are definitely aware that we’re here. We’re flying every day on the calendar while we’re out here doing some very complex training missions,” he said. “I can confidently say the men and women that we have here are organized, trained and equipped to execute any mission that the combatant commander would be asking of us.”

The training in the air, extends to maintenance teams on the ground.

“This is a huge deal in terms of being able to provide the critical training for our guardsman and progressing in their maintenance training and readiness,” said Major Abby Koehler, maintenance squadron commander. “This is a great opportunity to be here to provide the training for our troops across the board.”

Most of the Colorado airmen now in Japan are members of the Air National Guard. Most are on leave from their regular jobs in Denver in an effort to serve their country.

While many are students, others are employed in aviation, law enforcement, medicine, real estate as well as science and technology.

“We’re doing well here, we’re enjoying our time, we miss our families and we’ll be back soon,” said Major Koehler.

“If there are no hostilities when we leave, I was say our deployment was 100 percent success,” said Southard.

A Colorado effort to keep the calm, on the other side of the world.