Pilots Swap Korea for Missouri

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. --

The 442d Fighter Wing recently hosted their counterparts from the other side of the world. 

Two U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II pilots assigned to Osan Air Base in South Korea visited Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., from April 15-30 to upgrade their flying capabilities. The Korean pilots gained training, while the 442d FW’s pilots broadened their perspective on the role of the A-10 in modern warfare. 

“This exchange between our two units has been fantastic and mutually beneficial for both sides,” said Lt. Col. Nick Radoescu, commander of the 25th Fighter Squadron out of Osan AB, South Korea. 

Pilots in South Korea overcome challenges including weather issues, airspace issues and a uniquely fluctuating operations tempo. For example, Maj. Brian Leiter, the 442d FW’s assistant director of operations for the 303d Fighter Squadron, was at Osan Air Base last year during a North Korean nuclear test.

“He was able to see how our posture changed to react to that event,” said Radoescu.  “Some of the missions that we do here in Korea are fairly non-standard A-10 missions. This gives the Whiteman pilots a slightly different perspective and it increases their bag of tricks if they ever come across similar situations, whether it's in this theater or another.”

With that perspective in mind, the 303d FS was able to host Radoescu’s pilots, give them a training environment, augment their needs and allow them to focus on upgrade requirements. 

The ongoing program, with quarterly personnel exchanges, is called the “Boar Swap” as a play on the A-10’s nickname, the “Warthog.” One of the training emphases is Combat Search and Rescue, the ability to locate and recover lost personnel. The 442d FW, as a Reserve wing, retains an unusual number of instructor pilots who are capable of certifying CSAR pilots. By comparison, the 25th FS is comprised of younger and less experienced active-duty pilots who still need to earn those certifications. 

“I went out there in January,” said Lt. Col. Aaron Linderman, a 442d FW A-10 pilot and project officer for the Boar Swap. As an experienced pilot, Linderman was able to help certify the 25th FS in not only CSAR, but also the capability to perform search and rescue in hostile environments during his two-week visit to Osan AB. “We doubled their capability. These guys can go out to rescue somebody who’s bailed out behind enemy lines.”
The benefit of the Boar Swap does not end once the pilots leave the aircraft. 

Linderman explained that he enjoyed getting to know the younger generation of A-10 pilots and hearing how their experience was different from his own. For example, he and the other Reserve A-10 pilots have historically deployed to locations like Iraq and Afghanistan and fly in relatively uninhibited airspace in Missouri. 

“They have the experience in flying near the demilitarized zone in Korea,” said Linderman. “It’s a different set of tactics, techniques and procedures and we can compare and contrast how to accomplish different missions.”

The commercial flight from Missouri to Korea is 15 hours long, but to the A-10 pilots it’s a worthwhile experience.