Rob, you instruct South Koreans learning to fly the F-15K. How do you teach them when you don’t speak Korean?

I’m really at the mercy of the Koreans who speak English. With this technology there are Americanisms, but they don’t always translate. When things get really technical, it usually needs a little translation.

What’s the best thing about being the only American instructor on K-2?

Well, it’s a first for me flying the F-15K; a first for me being in Korea; and for them it will be a first for them when they bring their jets to the Red Flag exercise at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada this August.

Why is Red Flag such a big deal?

Red Flag is a large-scale simulated air war that integrates training for pilots from different allied nations and all types of aircraft for one common mission in a "real" combat scenario.

You are from Rochester, Minn., but grew up in Boca Raton, Fla. Was it tough to trade the beach life for a military career?

My wife can’t stand when I say this, but I was never a beach person. Being in a mountainous area where I could do backpacking and mountain biking was fine with me when I left for Colorado for the Air Force Academy.

What made you decide to go to the Air Force Academy?

At some point in high school I made that conscious effort. I had been getting good grades, but the academy really looks for someone who is also well-rounded. I was into sports and earned Eagle Scout.

What was your Eagle Scout service project?

I organized the building of a butterfly garden at a local ecology lab.

What is your favorite thing about flying?

Tough question. I will say that one time while I was training for four-ship-flight lead, I was airborne leading three other F-15s in a four-ship wall. And it was an awesome feeling of what I had at my hands when I looked to either side of me and saw the other F-15s lined up for about a mile.

Cool, but what’s up with the scarves you guys wear?

I have heard two stories. Back in the plane fighting days of World War I, pilots used to fly in open cockpits with this big motor only a few feet in front of them. To keep warm, they would wear wool jackets and they would wear the silk scarves to keep from the chafing the wool might cause. The other story is that because of all the oil and smoke from the engine, they would put them over their mouths as a filter so they could breathe. We usually only wear them now during ceremonies.

Your wife, Jamie, is a former news anchor. What was it like dating a local celebrity?

Before we were married she worked for a CBS affiliate in Tallahassee. After we married, she worked for News 14 in Raleigh. Dating a celebrity wasn’t my motivation, but there is a funny story about the first day we met. We were at a party and here’s this talented, interesting, beautiful blond, and we started talking and didn’t stop. In the corner of my eye, I noticed my friends with a sign in the back of the room that read, "Aren’t you going to share?" I thought to myself, "Heck no!" ... You know, a short version of how I got my call sign "Scrape" is from someone who suggested that my wife was scraping the bottom of the barrel when she married me. Hopefully I’m not that bad!

Capt. Rob 'Scrape' French

Age: 31

Location: K-2 Air Base, Daegu, South Korea

Claim to fame: F-15E pilot, instructor

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