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Kunsan Air Base commander is relieved of duty

Kunsan Air Base’s commander was relieved of his duties Monday by Pacific Air Forces commander Gen. Howie Chandler due to lack of confidence in the colonel’s performance, according to U.S. Air Force spokesmen.

Col. Bryan Bearden, 45, had commanded Kunsan’s 8th Fighter Wing since May — completing six months of a one-year tour.

"The decision was driven solely by duty performance factors," according to a Kunsan news release on Monday.

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The wing includes roughly 2,700 airmen and 15 squadrons, including two F-16 squadrons.

Col. Jerry Harris, 13th Air Force director of operations at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, is to replace Bearden.

In the release, Bearden said he had been honored to serve as 8th Fighter Wing commander.

"With our mission comes a significant responsibility and accountability. Clearly, that starts with me and I take full responsibility for performance across this wing," he said.

Bearden will be reassigned to a position outside South Korea. That position had not been determined as of Monday, a PACAF spokesman said.

Officials said they could not comment on how Chandler had measured Bearden’s job performance, or whether the decision to relieve him was based on the results of last week’s peninsula-wide operational readiness exercise, held quarterly at Kunsan.

Bearden was in his third tour in South Korea and his second at Kunsan. He served in Daegu in 1990, and was stationed at Kunsan as a captain in the 80th Fighter Squadron in 1993 and 1994.

During an interview in October, Bearden said team building was the hardest part of his job given Kunsan’s rapid turnover.

This tour was harder than his first tour at Kunsan 15 years ago because he now has two young children, he said. Almost all airmen are sent to Kunsan on one-year unaccompanied tours because of the remoteness of the base.

That remoteness creates a bond among airmen, he said.

"This is a very special place," he said. "People are so much closer here."

Bearden is a command pilot with more than 2,000 flying hours. Before coming to Kunsan, he commanded the 43rd Maintenance Group at Pope Air Force Base, N.C.

He has received a number of awards, including the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Bronze Star Medal.

He received his commission from the Texas A&M University Reserve Officer Training Corps in 1987.


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