From Colorado to the ROK: Three generations serving on the Peninsula
By Senior Airman Katrina Heikkinen, 8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 21, 2015
KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Most Airmen arrive at Kunsan Air Base with the expectation of seeing new faces and forming new relationships at the start of their year-long unaccompanied tour. But for a father and son of the Colorado Air National Guard, when they stepped onto the Korean Peninsula, they continued a family legacy spanning three generations.
Lt. Col. James Reeman, 120th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot, and his son, Senior Airman Mitchell Jamison, 120th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chief, are assigned to the Wolf Pack as part of a rotational Theater Security Package for approximately three months.
"For this TSP, we are here to support and train with active-duty Airmen, as part of [Kunsan's] mission to Accept Follow-on Forces," Reeman said. "Our integration with them and Republic of Korea Air Force Airmen provides us unique training opportunities while solidifying relationships with our allies. Deploying to the Asia-Pacific region not only gives us the opportunity to train in a different environment but also enhances our military combat capabilities."
Following in the steps of Reeman's father, who served 18 months in the ROK as an enlisted Marine in the 1950's, this is both Reeman and Jamison's first time being not only deployed together, but it is the first time both Airmen have been to the ROK.
"Although my father rarely talked about his experience in Korea, I know he saw a lot of combat," Reeman said. "His sense of service played a large role in both of us wanting to serve our country. Since being in Korea, Mitchell and I had a special opportunity to visit the Korean War Memorial in Seoul and learn about the history my father was a part of."
Just as Reeman admired his father's sense of service, Jamison too was inspired to join the Air Force after spending his childhood around fighter jets.
"My father was a huge influence when I decided to join the Air Force," Jamison said. "Growing up in the unit as a kid, it was a thrill watching him take off and even hearing the jets start and seeing them fly. It really drove the gears and inspired me to join."
With over 22 years of experience flying fighter jets in the Colorado ANG, when Reeman isn't deployed or conducting sorties on drill weekend, he wears a different uniform.
"Many of the guardsmen in my unit, including myself, have been commercial airline pilots for almost 20 years," Reeman said. "Deploying is always a little bit of a juggling act - with an employer and our families - because they're not used to us being away from home. But I have a commitment to the Air Force and working alongside Airmen at Kunsan has been a reminder of why I continue to serve."
Jamison, a full-time college student, was more than eager to deploy to Kunsan to further his training and to work alongside his father. As a crew chief, Jamison is the first and last person to inspect an F-16 before takeoff.
"I'm learning more and improving in just two months of being here - from both my leadership and from active-duty Airmen," Jamison said. "Plus, a few times a week I've had the chance to be assigned to my father's jet and send him off before a sortie."
For the next few months, the Colorado ANG will continue to integrate their operations and missions with the 8th Fighter Wing as well as the ROKAF 38th Fighter Group.
"Kunsan is a base in the F-16 world that many fighter pilots come to," Reeman said. "As an older guardsman, to get a taste of Kunsan is a huge privilege, but to be here with my son - on the flightline, at the gym, at church - has been a very special experience."