Wolf Pack conducts wing verification

Pilots from the 35th Fighter Squadron conduct a training mission over the South Korean peninsula. Pilots assigned to the 35th FS utilize training missions to simulate actual conditions they may face in combat and keep their war-fighting skills honed. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt Quinton T. Burris)

Three F-16s from the 8th Fighter Wing conduct a training mission over the South Korean peninsula. Many pilots attached to the 8th FW will participate in the verification process at Kunsan Air Base to ensure they are as well prepared as possible for combat and the ability to lead their wingmen into combat. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt Quinton T. Burris)

KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Nine F-16 pilots and two intelligence officers rounded out a week’s worth of academics, studying, mission planning and simulations by presenting their knowledge and planned mission to members of the Wolf Pack June 30, 2017, at Kunsan Air Base to earn their respective verification status.

Each of the pilots and intelligence officers took part in the career milestone to validate their ability to either conduct combat operations for the first time or upgrade to instructor pilot status, further solidifying the Wolf Pack’s ability to take the fight north.

“We go through various verification processes in our careers,” said Capt. Chris Brown, 8 Operations Group chief of standards and evaluations. “Either initial combat verification or reaching instructor pilot qualification, this validates that we’re ready to push it up in a wartime scenario.”

Brown, a combat verified pilot, went through the process shortly after becoming an instructor pilot. As an instructor, he helped teach the new wingman throughout the week and planned for a mission he could be tapped to lead as a mission commander in a real scenario.

Additionally, instructor pilots aren’t required to undergo verification again, but those who are with the 8th Fighter Wing tend to go through the process so they are better set up to be a flight lead and instruct new wingmen.

The verification week started with a real-world mission provided by the 8th Operations Support Squadron’s plans section and incorporated current intelligence and weather to replicate wartime scenarios if the wing had to “Fight Tonight.”

In response, Airmen undergoing verification built mission plans with inputs from 7th Air Force, the Alpha Battery, 2nd Battalion Patriot Battery with the 1st Air Defense Artillery, the Nellis Air Force Base Aggressors for tactics, a Ground Liaison Officer to advise on the Army’s scheme of maneuver, along with many others who would help them plan a real mission. Additionally, they conducted flying simulator missions to enact their plans.

“Verification simply verifies we are ready to take the fight north,” said Capt. Eric Kitaif, 8th FW chief of wing weapons and tactics. “We get a group of fighter pilots and intel with fresh eyes looking at a problem we have already solved. They often produce a better way to solve the problem, highlight issues we hadn’t noticed, or realize that the enemy has changed and we need to as well.”

Kitaif, the lead planner for this verification, opened the final briefing portion to members of the 8th Fighter Wing and the 607th Air Operations center to listen and ask questions.

“When each person goes through the verification process, they prove that they’re ready to push it up to the next level and contribute to the overall mission here,” said Kitaif, emphasizing the need to have attendees from various organizations who can then better understand what they support regarding the wing’s mission.

Upon arrival to the brief, all members of the group going through verification provided detailed information on topics relevant to their scenario ranging from current intelligence and capabilities of enemy forces, tactics and procedures of friendly forces, the different levels of planning which incorporated the 607th AOC, and dynamic tasking procedures to guide target prioritization.

The biggest takeaway for those who went through the process this week was better knowledge of the wartime special instructions, their weapons systems and how to best employ them in conjunction with coalition forces.

“A solid understanding of our tactics, the rules of engagement, and the enemy are critical to ensure we put our bombs on the correct target and bring our jets back home to continue the fight,” stated Brown. “Once the war kicks off it is too late to study or learn the things necessary to rage. This week verified we have the initial knowledge necessary in order to fight tonight, survive, and win.”

Once the briefing finished, the Airmen who briefed were then put through a gauntlet of pointed questions requiring in-depth knowledge of a wide-range of topics aiding in their ability to conduct a successful mission. Once all weapons school graduates, squadron commanders, group commanders and various other members of the wing asked their questions, Col. David Shoemaker, 8th FW commander, asked the final questions.

The Airmen getting verified were then removed for a brief panel discussion to ensure all questions were answered correctly and any inaccuracies were addressed.

Upon their return, Shoemaker gave the figurative and literal thumbs up to the group, signaling a step into the next phase of their operational career.

“What we do is deadly serious,” Shoemaker concluded. “When it’s time to go, I’m going to ask you to climb that ladder into your jet and go keep Korean lives from harm. When I ask you to go, I need you mission ready and able to inflict the max amount of damage on our enemy.”