CaptionAn F-14A Tomcat of Fighter Squadron ONE FIVE FOUR, prepares to launch and participate in Exercise FOAL EAGLE. Cmdr. Drew "Bluto" Brugal, pilot, and Lt. Rod "Butt" Behrend launch in aircraft 107 to participate on a Theater Ballistic Missile Defense (TBMD) mission in support of the bilateral exercise. Photo by Ens. Dave Hanselman, VF-154 TARPS
It's been rather chilly the past two and a half weeks for the crewmembers of Independence and Carrier Air Wing FIVE operating off the east coast of South Korea. Today marks the conclusion of the bilateral multi-service exercise FOAL EAGLE '97 which Indy has been a part of.
For Sailors on board, this annual exercise has given them the chance to work hand and hand with the South Korean forces to improve fleet, task force and Airwing combined warfare skills.
"The training we received with the Republic of Korea Navy is invaluable because it prepares us for any possible contingencies in the future," said Lt. Wayne Plager of Edison, NJ. "We were able to integrate a wide array of diverse units for a common cause."
This eventful exercise was broken down into five separate time periods, each with a specific task in mind.
During the first phase, known as deployment, Independence said farewell to family and friends and departed Yokosuka, Japan steaming toward Pusan, South Korea. "These eight days were well spent because it gave the pilots a chance to refresh their qualifications and practice carrier operations." said Plager.
After the refresher, the oldest and finest spent three days inport Pusan, South Korea. Independence reunited her support of Foal Eagle after the port visit.
The next phase, establishment of sea control, gave the Airwing an opportunity to participate in Anti-Special Operation Forces missions.
"One of the major events of Foal Eagle was the location and simulated destruction of special forces," said Plager. "Several S-3B Vikings and SH-60F Seahawks searched, located, and relayed the locations of these special forces making it possible for air strikes."
During the third phase, amphibious assault, Sea-Air-Land Specialists (SEALS) infiltrated Tok Sok Ri beach in South Korea with the assistance of close air support provided by the Airwing.
With the blast of the jets and the steam bellowing from the four catapults, the Airwing soared into the reposition. Despite the Special Forces buildup, North Korea also has Tactical Ballistic Missiles (TBM).
"Two F-14A Tomcats from VF-154 launched from Independence and maintained a high altitude at supersonic speeds to simulate TBMs," said Plager. "Bunker Hill located and relayed the message back to shore allowing the land based patriot missiles to simulate lock-on and firing."
The final phase, which is concluding today, focuses on land strikes on various ranges in South Korea.
Independence is scheduled to decommission next year making this the last time she will participate in Foal Eagle. Her next event, which begins in two days, is Annual Exercise which combines the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force and the U.S. Navy.