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13th Fighter Squadron S. Korea-bound

Misawa unit replacing Army helo battalion

By VINCE LITTLE AND FRANKLIN FISHER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 9, 2009

This time, the 13th Fighter Squadron is staying a little closer to home.

Air Force officials said the unit from Misawa Air Base, Japan, is gearing up for a six-month deployment to South Korea, where a dozen F-16 fighters and about 400 airmen will temporarily replace an Army attack and reconnaissance helicopter battalion set to pull out in March.

The 35th Fighter Wing didn’t release a specific date but said the Misawa deployment would begin later this month.

The Army’s 1st Battalion, 2nd Aviation Regiment, nicknamed "Half-Attack," will leave Camp Eagle in Wonju, South Korea, this spring for a new home at Fort Carson, Colo. The troops will deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan later this year.

The unit, which flies the AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopter, has 24 aircraft and about 360 soldiers. It’s been stationed in South Korea since November 1994 as part of the 2nd Infantry Division.

Last year, the U.S. military said the Apache battalion’s close-air support mission would be picked up by 12 Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II attack planes. It later decided to replace the Apaches with F-16s because of structural concerns over the A-10 airframe.

The 4th Battalion, 2nd Aviation Regiment at Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek will remain as the Army’s lone Apache unit in South Korea.

"The deployment of the 13th is aimed at balancing assets to support regional security in the Asia-Pacific theater and meet the needs of the ongoing global war on terror," said Master Sgt. Allison Day, a 35th Fighter Wing spokeswoman.

While in South Korea, the squadron and support personnel will conduct standard training to keep flying proficiencies and tactical requirements current, she added. That will include sharpening their air-to-air and air-to-ground roles.

The rotational move "keeps the F-16s within the region and close to Japan as opposed to out-of-theater deployments that have previously been conducted," Day said. "(But) as a matter of operational security, it is our policy not to discuss the details of specific operational or training missions."

In May 2007, the 13th Fighter Squadron and support airmen deployed to Balad Air Base in Iraq.

More than 300 airmen with Misawa’s 14th Fighter Squadron are wrapping up a five-month tour to Balad. No return date has been announced.