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Suwon Air Base

Suwon Air Base is effectively a Republic of Korea Air Base, as it has all the planes and does all the flying, but is still maintained and administered by the United States military. A large Army Patriot Battalion is located on the base but is a tenant unit of the Air Force. Senior NCO's had the option of living off base (in Songtan) and airmen reside in dorms at Osan AB. All commuted daily to Suwon (17 miles north of Osan AB). Suwon had a small BX, snackbar, barbershop, laundry services and dining facility (run by the US Army).

The Air Base housed the 1st Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, a unit of the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade. The unit's mission was to defend against air attack. Suwon Air Base in South Korea was a remote base surrounded with razor-sharp barbed wire and guarded by Army Patriot missiles. It was one of 5 co-located operating sites that could house deployed forces if war erupts on the bitterly divided peninsula. In August 2007 this unit was rotated to Fort Bliss, Texas, with the 1st Battalion, 7th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, also a unit of the 108th ADA Brigade, taking up the air defense mission at Suwon. In May 2008, 1-7th Air Defense Artillery was replaced by 3rd Battalion, 2nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment.

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 1981 the United States and the Republic of Korea signed a memorandum of understanding concerning the pre-positioning USAF-owned combat communications assets at the following ROK Air Bases: Cheong Ju, Sachon, Suwon and Yechon. Under the agreement the ROKAF was required to provide the following at Suwon Air Base:

  • A: Provide rent free and at no cost to the USAF 9,100 square feet of outside storage space near the Base Supply warehouse (Building 401). Allow the USAF to connect into existing electrical system in order to provide security lighting.
  • B: Provide rent free and at no cost to the USAF inside storage space within the Base Supply warehouse to store one conex container.
  • C: Permit the use of base motor pool facilities as required by USAF personnel for routine operator maintenance of vehicles and mission essential emergency repairs. Routine operator maintenance includes, but is not limited to, cleaning, lubrication, oil changes, maintaining tire pressures and corrosion control. USAF will provide all required materials.
  • D: Provide telephone communications support, emergency medical support, emergency firefighting support and any fuels and/or lubricants needed for USAF personnel during deployments and visits to perform periodic maintenance and operational testing of USAF assets.
  • E: All requests for reimbursement for support provided in paragraph D above will be submitted annually or as needed to the comptroller, 51st Composite Wing, Osan AB, USAF.
  • F: Provide for protection of pre-positioned USAF assets as part of their installation security program.

Pacific Air Forces ensures its own readiness by holding an annual-and intense-combat ammunition production exercise. Known as CAPEX, the exercise's goal is providing realistic wartime training. CAPEX began in 1987 because most combat-experienced ammo troops had retired between then and the end of the Vietnam War. For CAPEX '96, 842 people deployed to Suwon Air Base. Using an integrated concept, CAPEX '96 deployed bomb builders from Air Combat Command's Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina, and PACAF's Anderson AFB, Guam; Eielson AFB, Alaska; and Yokota and Misawa ABs, Japan. The 354th Fighter Wing, from Eielson AFB, selected as the provisional wing, provided 12 F-16s, 6 A/OA-10s and 412 people for the live-fire exercise. Ammo troops were not the only ones building at Suwon. The 354th Civil Engineering Squadron constructed a tent city in a bare, dirt field to house all the CAPEX players. In 9 days, the 57-member team from Eielson, working alongside 23 soldiers from the 473rd Quartermaster Company, Camp Kyle, South Korea, constructed 136 tents used for billeting, dining and recreational purposes.

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, previously announced as ending operations, would instead operate at reduced levels. 16 USAF personnel were assigned to Suwon.

Osan's runway closed for repairs 3 May 2000 causing a diversion of most of the base's flight operations to nearby Suwon Air Base until the project was completed on 31 May 2000. Osan's fleet of A-10s, F-16s, U-2s, the Osan Eagle and other aircraft operated out of Suwon, but helicopter operations continued at Osan. The base's C-12s operated out of nearby Camp Humphreys. Flightline workers commuted back and forth between Osan and Suwon, and about 60 to 70 people were billeted there full-time. Adding Osan's 2 flying squadrons to a base that already had a full flying schedule with 5 flying squadrons of its own really impacted the number of sorties Suwon could support. This caused a reduction in Osan's flight operations during the month.

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. Suwon Air Base, however, was not included in the original 2002 agreement or the 2004 ammendments, continuing to be a US Air Force maintained facility.

US Army Garrison Humphreys (USAG-H) was established between 2006 and 2007 as part of a US Army directed redesignation. This was part of a move to standardize garrison names worldwide and the unit name was changed from the former Area III Support Activity. Prior to the redesignation, the Area III Support Activity was part of the Installation Management Agency headquartered at Yongsan Garrison in Seoul, Republic of Korea and was activated Oct. 7, 2003. The US Army's IMA was established in October 2002, and subsequently was redesignated as Installation Management Command (IMCOM), to standardize Army installations, services and support worldwide in accordance with the ongoing Army transformation. US facilities at Suwon Air Base had been operated and maintained by the US Army, and with the redesignation and reorganization, responsibility for this upkeep was given to USAG-H.




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