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Kwangju (Gwangju) Air Base

Kawngju (also written Kwang Ju or Gwangju) is 150 miles south of Seoul. It was an active-duty US Air Force base until the ownership of it was turned over to the Republic of Korea in 1991. The ROK subsequently used the airfield as a base and airport in Kwang Ju City, the 5th largest city in the South Korea. The US Air Force continued to maintain nearly 250 acres of the base. The continued US precense was part of the potential forward deployment of US military personnel and equipment in a wartime scenario. In peacetime the base was normally used for training by South Korean Air Force units and US Air Force units on a regular basis.

The 51st Fighter Wing, headquartered at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, maintained and administered US operations at Osan and 5 collocated operating bases: Taegu, Suwon, Kwang Ju, Kimhae and Cheong Ju, for reception and beddown of follow-on forces. The Wing's 51st Logistics Support Squadron planned, programed and initiated actions for the rapid reception and beddown of US forces deploying to the Republic of Korea during contingencies or wartime by maintaining five collocated operating bases and seven munitions storage sites.

The United States Air Force had a continuing requirement to maintain adequate supplies of ammunition and explosives within the ROK to support wartime and contingency operational plans. Since capabilities were limited on USAF-controlled installations, the US obtained additional storage capabilities through a concept known as MAGNUM (Munitions Storage Activities Gained by Negotiations of USAF/ROKAF Memorandum). MAGNUMs were a concept unique to Korea, where USAF-titled munitions were stored at facilities which were owned, operated, and protected by the ROKAF. Accordingly, the USAF had very little control over the storage of munitions within these areas and no authority to enforce the maintenance of Q-D clear zones. As a result of encroachment by the Korean civilians into the explosive clear zones, there were large numbers of exposures around the MAGNUMs. There was a permanent exemption from US DoD Q-D standards for off-installation and ROK exposures created by storage of USAF munitions at MAGNUM locations. This exemption applied for all off-installation and ROK violations created by the originally sited net explosives weight (NEW) of storage structures located at the Osan, Kunsan, Suwon, Kwang Ju, Sachon, Taegu, and Cheong Ju MAGNUMs.

In 1992 the US government changed the status of 3 US air bases in Korea. Kwang Ju Air Base, Suwon Air Base and Taegu Air Base had previously been announced as ending operations, but would instead operate at reduced levels. 15 USAF personnel were assigned to the the Kwangju site. Personnel resided in former Officer quarters, which was basically a small apartment. JTR was 20 perent for the site.

In June 1999 eight F-15Cs from the 44th Fighter Squadron, Kadena Air Base, Japan, deployed to Kwang Ju Air Base, Republic of Korea, to participate in Cope Jade, a joint exercise between air, sea and land forces from the U.S. and Republic of Korea. Other units deployed from 8 different bases across the Pacific Air Forces, including Elmendorf and Eielson Air Force Bases, Alaska; Kunsan and Osan Air Bases, Republic of Korea; Yokota and Kadena Air Bases, Japan; Anderson AFB, Guam; and Hickam AFB, Hawaii. The purpose of the exercise, which began 15 June 1999, was to maximize the effectiveness of air power and interoperability of two countries' forces.

In 2002 the United States and the Republic of Korea agreed to a Land Partnership Plan (LPP) for the reorganization of US facility assets in the ROK. This included the closure, partial closure, and return of a wide array of facilities to the ROK. Kawngju Air Base, however, was not included in the original 2002 agreement or the 2004 ammendments, continuing to be a US Air Force maintained facility.

The US Army Garrison Daegu (USAG-D, whose mission was formerly held by the 20th Area Support Group until 16 October 2003, and later deactivated) was responsible not only for managing all US Army installations within the Area IV geographic region, but also sister service installations, including Gwangju Air Base (US Army and US Air Force on a ROK Air Force installation) in Gwangju. USAG-D was originally part of the US Army's Installationa Management Agency, but became part of Installation Management Command Korea (IMCOM-K), when the command was stood up in 2006.

In October 2004, the United States Army began deployment of a Patriot missile unit, the 2nd Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery Regiment, of the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, to Kwangju. Deployment of the new missiles met angry protests from activists in Gwangju. In late 2006 it was announced that the 2-1st Air Defense Artillery would move to Camp Carroll. This move was completed in December 2006.




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